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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saw dust rub-a-dub

"What in the bejeebers is going on in there?"

Chipmunk (in this case, the shadow chipmunk Neotamias senex) showed up an hour after we made the camera trap set.

It cased the joint and disappeared. 

The rodent was back later that week, after the bear and shrew appearances.

The coast was clear, so it stripped down and dived into the sawdust.

Yes, carpenter ants provide some useful services, including sawdust production.  

For a long time the ant gallery in that tree has showered sawdust on everything poking its head in the door.

But it's not really sawdust per se. It's frass, which is actually insect poop. 

Carpenter ants, however, just chew up the wood without passing it through their system; so their frass is a wholesome product that smells like a wood working shop.

Chipmunk seems to have developed a powerful hankering for the stuff, because it came back a week later to luxuriate in it.

It tumbled and rolled with reckless abandon,

and then soaked a while, having chipmunk thoughts. 

No doubt this is an impeccably clean chipmunk, with the outdoorsy musk of Paul Bunyan.  

Here's an instructional sequence intended for hygienically challenged chipmunks, just so they know how it is done. 

And yes, in case you were wondering, the codger did doctor the opening picture of this blogpost.  


Shervin Hess et al said...

Best. Chipmunk. Ever.

7oaks said...

That's a gas!

CGJ said...

Chipmunks are clowns. Very entertaining!

biobabbler said...

Heavens. Delightful. & edifying! =)

randomtruth said...

Excellent job on all fronts Chris - the capture of the frass bath, and the dub of you into the 1st pic. :)

Do you think the use of frass is purely for the physical aspects, or do you think maybe there's also chemicals in it that might aid in parasite reduction? Carpenter ants are in the Formic ant family...

Dale said...

Great natural history! I loved it. Having just completely traversed, or should I say obliterated, a carpenter ant gallery from the moist foundation of my deck, I found out that the queen and her court occupies the leading edge of the destruction. There was no mold in the wet frass....wood resins and the mold inhibitor gland of the ant seemed to preserve the frass. I think "randomtruth" is on to something.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Yes, Mr Happy, the Ig Nobel Prize winner also suggested that something biochemical might be going on. Next time I wander up that way, provided there's no bear in the den, I'm going to try it myself.

Bay Laurel said...

I've got to agree with Shervin! My favorite image is the "and then soaked a while, having chipmunk thoughts.". Any plans to put a video on that pile next? Could provide quite a show!

Anonymous said...

Chris, Just checked out the Codger's latest post. Loved the hygienic chipmunk. Great chuckle. Made my day. Thanks. --Bob

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Well, that'll be the latest trendy spa treatment for humans - instead of mud baths or hot stones, ant frass rubs!

Jacques Prescott said...

The dust bath taken by the chipmunk reminds me of anting behaviour displayed by gray squirrels and described by D.C. Hauser in J. Mammal. (45):136-138, 1964. Hauser observed gray squirrels bathing on an ant nest, rubbing their body and getting excited in the process. It is hypothesized that squirrels are seeking contact with ants to impregnate their coat with formic acid in order to get rid of mites and other skin parasites. Birds are also known to preen their feathers with an ant in their beak for the same purpose. Judging from the first picture, it looks as if the codger himself was getting ready for an ant bath.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Brilliant find, Jacques! I think we have finally found your Ph D dissertation topic!

Chas S. Clifton said...

Simply amazing. Who knew? Definitely a potential spa treatment, as Katie said.

Paul Thompson said...

I think the first photo is probably the BEST camera trap photo ever!

Way Cool!