Insect antenna as a smoke detector
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Stefan Schutz; Bernhard Weissbecker; Hans E. Hummel; Karl-Heinz Apel; Helmut Schmitz; Horst Bleckman
Publication Year: 1999

Cataloging Information

  • beetles
  • fire damage
  • forest damage
  • jewel beetles
  • Melanophila spp.
  • smoke detection
  • Unknown
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: February 15, 2018
FRAMES Record Number: 5129


The larvae of jewel beetles of the genus Melanophila (Buprestidae) can develop only in the wood of trees freshly killed by fire. To arrange this, the beetles need to approach forest fires from as far as 50 kilometers away. They are the only buprestid beetles known to have paired thoracic pit organs, which behavioral, ultrastructural and physiological experiments have shown to be highly sensitive infrared receptors, useful for detecting forest fires. It has been suggested that Melanophila can sense the smoke from fires, but behavioral experiments failed to show that crawling beetles approach smoke sources. We find that the antennae of jewel beetles can detect substances emitted in smoke from burning wood.

Online Link(s):
Schutz, Stefan; Weissbecker, Bernhard; Hummel, Hans E.; Apel, Karl-Heinz; Schmitz, Helmut; Bleckman, Horst. 1999. Insect antenna as a smoke detector. Nature 398(6725):298-299.