The attraction of insects to forest fires
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): W. G. Evans
Publication Year: 1972

Cataloging Information

  • Alberta
  • arthropods
  • Canada
  • Coleoptera
  • coniferous forests
  • Dendroctonus
  • Diptera
  • diseases
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • Florida
  • forest management
  • habits and behavior
  • heat
  • heat effects
  • humus
  • insects
  • Melanophila
  • Odonata
  • Pantala flavescens
  • Picea
  • pine forests
  • plant diseases
  • smoke effects
  • species diversity
  • temperature
  • trees
  • wildfires
  • wood
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: June 1, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 36429
Tall Timbers Record Number: 10806
TTRS Location Status: In-file
TTRS Call Number: Journals-T
TTRS Abstract Status: Okay, Fair use, Reproduced by permission

This bibliographic record was either created or modified by the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy and is provided without charge to promote research and education in Fire Ecology. The E.V. Komarek Fire Ecology Database is the intellectual property of the Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.


The control of wildfires in forested areas may not always be a desirable objective since certain benefits can result that are important enough to warrant prescribed burning in some cases. Included in these benefits is the control of harmful insects and plant diseases and of undesirable plant species (Humphrey, 1969). Fire then can act as an ecological regulator and if manipulated by man can be one of the tools in habitat management for ecological control of certain animals and plants. The main effect of a forest fire, however, is the killing of trees but not necessarily the destruction of the wood which in most cases is carried on by insects and other organisms. During a fire certain insect species are attracted to the site and deposit eggs in the freshly burned wood. They are, therefore, like many other plants and animals, dependent on forest fires and they play a dominant role in the process of reducing dead trees to humus by feeding and boring through the wood. In summary, of the insects that are attracted to forest fires, one group consisting of platypezid and empidid smoke flies and some cerambycid and buprestid beetles appear to be attracted by smoke while members of the subgenus Melanophila are probably attrated by smoke and heat. By getting to forest fires while the trees are still burning and by ovipositing in the freshly burned wood, Melanophila initiates the process of breakdown before competitors arrive and even before the fire is out. The role of these remarkable insects should be considered in any program where prescribed burning is used in habitat management not only because of their usefulness but also because they contribute to the fire-induced increase in species diversity.

Evans, W. G. 1972. The attraction of insects to forest fires. Tall Timbers Conference on Ecological Animal Control by Habitat Management, v. 3, p. 115-127.