BARK BEETLE BOY!!!: ACT I

Jan. 12, 2016: I recently saw the movie Ant-Man on DVD. I'd like to say I watched it with the grandkids but I rented it and watched it myself. I got to thinking that there are very few insect based superheroes. Besides Ant-Man maybe the Green Hornet, but he had just the name and not much insect stuff about him. And yes, there is SpiderMan, but he is technically an arachnid and not an insect. There are even fewer insect based supervillains. Maybe The Fly, but that's it.

What Marvel Comics needs as there next blockbuster hit (which I'm willing to sell the rights to for reasonable royalties) is another insect supervillain. It will be insidious, deadly, wily and there will be legions of them perhaps lead by one insect criminal mastermind. Like any true evil they will be almost impossible to stop. The fate of humankind will hang in the balance.

That dread supervillain is Bark Beetle Boy!!!!! and his evil army of kagillions. Ravaging the forests of the West, nothing seems to stop them. No guns, bombs, sonic cannons, nor even kryptonite, affects them. What will the world do?? Who will save us??

Well, I haven't thought that far yet and until Marvel Comics comes up with a retainer offer, I'm probably not going to spend a lot of time developing storyline. The nice thing is the real storyline won't take much embellishing (that being said . . . Marvel, let's not waste yours and my time. We can start negotiating in the six figure area). The real storyline is chilling and the fate of Western treekind does hang in the balance.

The Real Story
There are several hundred species of bark beetles that are native to North America. A handful of species cause a lot of problems - to the tune of an estimated 46 million acres. That's about 100,000 trees killed per day according to the US Forest Service. The most predominant culprits are 3 species groups of beetles: the mountain pine beetle, the western pine beetle and the ips beetle. Their cumulative range is from the Rockies west to the Cascades and Sierras, from northern British Columbia to northern Mexico. They attack ponderosa, lodgepole, sugar, western white pine and other pine species - in other words, most of the forest type of the interior West. I have even seen pine beetle damage and death in ornamental pines, eastern white pine and Japanese black pine, here in the Willamette Valley.

My first experience with bark beetles was on the Western Slope of Colorado, where I was an extension agent. Whole sides of mountain were covered in huge blotches of rust (dying ) and grey (dead) lodgepole Beetle killed forestBeetle killed forestpine. It was surreal. I thought I would never see such an astonishing sight again, but unfortunately I have here in central Oregon. One of my favorite fishing spots, Dead Horse Lake, was a pristine high elevation lake surrounded by lodgepole pine. It was the classic high country beauty we envision of the Oregon Cascades. But the beetle found it. The Forest Service closed access to it for several years because of the hazard of dead trees and when it finally opened up and I went up to go fishing. I was horrified, aghast. It was a lunar landscape. It was a lake surrounded by stumps and snags as far as my eye could see. I went elsewhere to fish.

So, I'm seeing the opening scene of the movie. A happy family is having a picnic beside a beautiful high country lake. Suddenly, the ground begins to tremor slightly. There is the sound of rasping. At first low and then building until it becomes a roar. Trees tremble, needles begin to drop and then rain down upon the terrified family. The earth writhes as branches break and trees come crashing down. The family's minivan is crushed. They have no escape. The camera closes in on the terrified family huddled together as they stare focused on something the camera now pans to. There towering over the tree tops is Bark Beetle Boy(!!!), his dead multifaceted stare and shiny mandibles grinning and dripping with sap. Scene blacks out. Ominous movie score. (Note to Marvel: Can we get Aaron Copeland for the score? Is he still alive?)

As with any good supervillain, they garner a certain amount of grudging respect and admiration from the viewer for their evil genius . This tiny black insect (it's size compared to a grain of rice or a mouse turd) is remarkable in its ability to find and attack it's prey. In Act II, we'll explore the evil genius of the bark beetle and in Act III, we'll talk about controlling the beetle and the future of western forests (and how this can be spun into lots of sequels improving the profit potential of both production and merchandising. Note to Marvel: Don't wait too long to jump on this. I can always take this to DC Comics.)

Until then, don't go into the forest alone!

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