Forest fires are devastating, yet they often clear the way for new plant life. This rebirth also extends to the animal
world, including the Melanophila (mell-ann-AH-fill-a) beetle. The name means “black-loving” because the beetle
is drawn to freshly burned, blackened wood where it lays its eggs. Two devices help the insect find its way to the fire source.
First, the beetle antennae are very sensitive to a few parts parts per billion of smoke particles in the air. Second, the
insect boasts specialized infrared sensor organs which detect the heat radiation produced by a distant forest fire. The beetles
flock to fire zones which may be 50 or more miles away. Such insect behavior is described as pyrophilic or “fire-loving.”
There are dozens of pyrophilic insects including a species of wasp. The level of sensitivity of these creatures to infrared
heat radiation is far beyond modern instrumentation.