The sound of bark beetles

A Great Aridness

A Great Aridness

I’m thinkin’ you’ll want to head out to your favorite local bookstore and buy Bill deBuys’ A Great Aridness. It’s full of stuff like this, on the dry winter of 2001-02, when a bear came out of hibernation early because it was so warm and ransacked deBuys’ yard in search of something to eat:

That winter was a bad one for the bear, but a good one for the bark beetles, and once spring came, bringing weather so hot and dry the pastures never greened, you could walk among the piñons and hear a faint mechanical drone, as of a thousand tiny chisels rhythmically chipping away. It was hordes of beetles, tunneling and feeding.

I admit I was skeptical, but when I related deBuys’ account to a couple of northern New Mexico denizens, one an actual tree scientist, they said it’s true. When it’s scary warm and dry like that, they both told me, if you’re really quiet in the woods, you can hear ’em.



  1. I recall being in the garden a few years back on a very quiet day, and hearing a small noise, and following it, and eventually discovering it was a wasp, chewing up a dried plant stalk.

  2. Finally reading deBuys’ book and was hooked from the first sentence of the introduction: “March 1919: Somebody killed the trader at Cedar Springs.” From there deBuys spins a compelling metaphor that leads straight to the great mystery of our time–climate change.

    As he did 26 years ago with his natural history of the Sanger de Cristo Mountains, Enchantment and Exploitation, deBuys combines the eye of a scientist and the voice of a poet.

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