Beetlemania! The Wonders Of Ambrosia Wood

Beetlemania! The Wonders Of Ambrosia Wood

Johnny Williams
Jul 19, 2010

Most wood-boring insects are considered pests, capable of ruining floors, furniture and framing. But take it from a woodworker: weevils aren't all evil. When Ambrosia beetles infest a piece of wood, they produce wonderful organic patterns.

According to Wikipedia, "Ambrosia beetles are an ecological guild, but not a phylogenetic clade." Well, duh! These bugs wouldn't be caught dead in a phylogenetic clade! (Honestly though, I have no idea what any of that means.)

Here's what I do know: first, the beetles bore a hole into the tree or lumber. Once inside, they excrete a fungus that turns the wood into an edible nutrient. As the satiated bug bores ahead, it leaves a streaky fungus trail in its wake. Correction: a beautiful streaky fungus trail!

Don't get me wrong, certain types of Ambrosia beetles can seriously harm your house and the surrounding trees. (I'm looking at you, Asian Ambrosia beetle!) But often the wood-boring insects leave no lasting damage. Woodworkers — particularly woodturners — covet Ambrosia wood for it's unusual, almost psychedelic figuring. Maple, the most common variety, is widely available for purchase online. But before you buy, make sure the wood has been kiln-dried and all the beetles are dead — and no, I'm not talking about Paul and Ringo!

Images: 1 Rob Lindholm, 2 Woodworking Talk , 3 Wethersfield Woodcraft, 4 One of a kind 2, 5 NCWood

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