Kerala Kaumudi Online
Thursday, 07 December 2023 4.29 PM IST

Ambrosia beetles reason behind fires in moving vehicles


THRISSUR: Researchers believe that beetles of the 'Asian ambrosia' species are likely behind the fires in moving cars. Petrol that comes out through through the hole made by the beetle in the rubber pipes leading to the tank can cause fire. The Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) is preparing to study more about this. The holes made by the beetles were confirmed in surveys Kannur, Wayanad and Alappuzha districts.

A survey led by scientists TV Sajeev, Jithu U Krishnan and research scholar Thushar Naduvallur found that 150 vehicles were damaged in one year. The survey was started a year ago following a complaint from Kottayam. The Asian ambrosia beetle belongs to a family of over 7,500 species. 80 percent of these are found in Kerala. There is also concern that these may pose a threat to rubber plantations as well.

Lured by ethanol

A small amount of ethanol is produced in wood that begins to dry. Detecting this with their horns, the beetles will pierce the wood and deposit the fungus and lay their eggs. The fungus resides in a sac-like part (mycangia) on the beetle's body. Larvae feed on the growing fungus. Some species can also pierce green trees.

Pipes attacked by mistake

Ethanol is added to petrol and the beetles mistakenly take fuel pipe for wood. They die when petrol touches the body. The central government has decided to add ethanol to petrol to alleviate the environmental problem. Ethanol, which is currently added at 10 percent, may increase to 20 percent by 2025. In that case, the attack of beetles may increase.

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