Finding wood to house wood-boring beetles can be simple, if the right information is utilized. The best time to collect the wood is late winter through early spring. Adult beetles of the majority of species across North America mostly emerge as adults mid to late spring. Collecting the wood just a little prior to the adults emerge, allows them to experience the natural rise and fall of temperatures as well as the moisture regimes through almost the entire period from larvae to pupae. It is also easier to spot infestation of larvae once they have had the time to develop. While there is technically no “bad” time to collect wood, it is always a good idea to keep an eye out around that time of year.
Besides the time of year, the type of tree is also a factor to which the likeliness of beetles lies. In the eastern United States, oaks, hickories, and hackberries tend to house diverse species, but a limited number of species may still be found in elms, locust, and maple. In the southwest regions of the United States, highly favored plants are acacia and mesquite, and in the mountains oaks are the favored tree. And scattered all around are conifers, which are known to host an immense diversity of wood-boring beetles. The trick to becoming efficient is to become fluent at identifying these trees as well as the dead wood from them, as sometimes the leaves are dead and gone.
After identifying whether or not the tree is the correct type for housing the beetles, it needs to be determined if there are actually beetles in it or not. It is not as simple as looking at the tree and branches; by the time damage is evident it is already too late and the beetles have emerged. Look for freshly dead branches, as this is where the eggs will be laid. The bark may be sliced lengthwise, to be checked for larval tunnels just under the bark. Tunnels of long-horned beetles are often clean, while jewel beetles leave a sawdust-like product.
Aside from collecting the branches, it is possible to obtain beetles by placing a pan under a branch and tapping it to have the beetles fall down into the pan. Another method is to set up a backlight aimed at a sheet, and wait for the beetles to come to it. This method is a bit less labor intensive but does not always guarantee results.
Once the Specimen is Obtained
Choosing a container for the bugs is important—the moisture needs to be managed in a way that there will not be too much or too little because both will lead to mortality of the beetle larvae. Something as simple as cardboard boxes works well, as long as it is sturdy enough and the cracks are sealed with duct tape. Containers should be checked every 7 to 15 days during spring and summer months. An idea to attract newly emerging adults is to cut a hole in the container and attaching a clear jar. To check on the beetles, a tap on the bottom of the box dislodges any beetles from the branches and then they may be dumped onto a level surface.
Containers may be stored somewhere that does not experience extreme high and low temperatures, but rather average outdoor temperatures are ideal, such as an unheated garage. If possible, sun exposure is suggested but it is necessary to keep the container out of the rain as well as direct sunlight, as both of these can lead to the death of the specimens. If using plastic buckets as a container, ventilation holes with mesh attached with a hot glue gun over them is the best way to make the containers breathable while not containing too much moisture to produce mold.
To manage moisture, it would be good practice to remove the wood from the container in late summer, and lay it on a flat surface. Then, spray it down with water, leaving it out to dry. Once dried completely, the wood may be returned back into the container. If the wood is not completely dry, mold will begin to form. The wood may also be wet with this method in late winter or early spring, if it is being used for more than one season.