▶️ When fire season arrives, so do the fire beetles

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Firefighters deal with so much out on the job.

From the obvious – slowing the spread of wildfires. To some more unusual things they have to deal with.

Some are more annoying than others, which really bug firefighters and can be a real pain in the neck.

“I think they have small spikes in their feet and when they try to get in and run down your skin real quick, usually collar area, the back of your collar, if your shirt is not tucked in, up your pain leg, I have seen it that way to,” said Redmond Battalion Chief Ken Brown.

For 29 years Brown has been fighting fires in Central Oregon and with those fires, comes “fire beetles.”

“There’s no way to prevent it,” Brown said. “I mean you can completely encapsulate yourself and maybe you will keep them from landing on you, they are going to land on you, they just not might find the easiest way in.”

These dark gray beetles are related to metallic wood-boring beetles.

“This particular species are attracted very strongly to heat and infrared and they are amazingly able to hone into fire zones from very far away even 50, 60, I have even heard 100 miles away,” said retired entomologist Jerry Freilich.

They can smell smoke and have heat-sensing organs.

“These particular species of beetle, lays their eggs on recently burned timber,” Freilich added.

Unfortunately for the firefighters, these beetles can be a bit of a nuisance.

“They’re not very intelligent,” Freilich said. “I mean they are just flying around, and they land on things, and they are going to try and bore into it and they can bite you, but it’s more of a thing where you shake them off.”

Brown can attest to the bites firsthand.

“It’s just very uncomfortable and the bites are not terrible,” Brown said. “They don’t leave any lasting marks or anything that I ever noticed, but very uncomfortable and very inopportune when you are trying to get some stuff done, fight some fire, protect structures or whatever you are doing. They just smell the smoke from a distance and come out of the woodwork literally.”

The beetles might be annoying to firefighters, but they don’t pose any danger to their health.

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