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How Nature Reuses Its Resources

I find it fascinating how resources are reused by nature in many ways. One example of how nature reuses things is a basic hole in a pine tree. I have really enjoyed watching the transformation of this pine tree cavity I’m about to show you.

In February of 2018, a fellow photographer found a pileated woodpecker nest in a preserve that’s not far from my home. He was kind enough to show me exactly where it was. You may recognize these birds as the inspiration for the cartoon Woody Woodpecker. They are large and loud.

A male pileated woodpecker hanging out at the entrance to his cavity
A male pileated woodpecker hanging out at the entrance to his cavity

I visited off and on for a couple of months, then one day in April I finally saw the nestlings.

Nestling pileated woodpeckers watching a parent approach the nest
Nestling pileated woodpeckers watching a parent approach the nest
Parent feeding one of the nestlings while the other looks on
Parent feeding one of the nestlings while the other looks on

By this time they were close to being ready to leave the nest, and sure enough, they were gone soon after. Many species of birds don’t continue to use the nest once their babies can fly.

I kept visiting, though, because it’s an awesome spot to find all kinds of birds (bobwhite quail, scrub jays, and lots of woodpecker species). So imagine my surprise when I checked the next in mid-July and discovered that it had been commandeered by a bunch of honeybees! I’d guess there are at least 100 honeybees visible in the photo below, and who knows how many inside.

Honey bees building their hive in the former woodpecker nesting cavity
Honey bees building their hive in the former woodpecker nesting cavity

Then two months later, in late September, check out what it looks like now!

Beehive can be seen poking out of the woodpecker cavity
Beehive can be seen poking out of the woodpecker cavity

That’s a beautiful honeycomb! There are still lots of bees around, indicating an active nest. What an awesome way for nature to reuse this nest cavity!

I also did some research online and found that pileated woodpeckers don’t tend to reuse the same nest from year to year, so hopefully these parents won’t be upset next year when they find they’ve been evicted.

Also: I half expect I’ll show up in a few weeks and find a brown bear going after the honey. (That’s a joke. But it does seem like the next step!) What other examples have you found where nature reuses something in a similar manner?

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