|At first glance, fungi might appear to be a poor place
to look for animals. However, look closely at fungal fruiting bodies and you may find an
amazing variety of associated animals. These range from minute beetles to large slugs. Fly
larvae such as fungus gnats, may be burrowing and mining through the stems of fruiting
bodies. Dor Beetles may be voraciously eating and hollowing out others. Some animals may
merely be taking advantage of the shelter, while still others, such as some beetle
species, may be carnivores, stalking and eating the other inhabitants.
The fruiting bodies of fungi provide specialist habitats for a huge number of
invertebrates (mini beasts). By far the greatest number are beetles and their larvae, but
certain kinds of moth and fly larvae also take advantage of this source of food. Many of
them can be found on a wide range of fungi, but some may only be found in very particular
places. For example, a small black beetle (Dorcatoma ambjoerni), occurs only in
the fruiting bodies of a particular kind of bracket fungus, growing inside
hollow beech trees. Bracket fungi are popular
habitats for insects to develop in because they tend to last longer than other fungal
fruiting bodies. This allows more time for the insect to develop from egg to adult.
Stinkhorns provide another
unusual place to look for animals, in particular flies. The stinkhorn fruiting body has a
slimy spore mass which smells like carrion. This attracts a range of flies such as
Bluebottles, Greenbottles and Flesh-flies, amongst many others.
Most animals take advantage of those fungi which just happen to be
around. However, some insects carry their larder with them! Ambrosia Beetles are one
example. These beetles carry ambrosia fungus with them and infect newly dead wood with the
spores of the fungus. The beetle, Hylecoetus dermestoides, carries the fungal
spores in its eggshells. The fungus then grows in the tunnels and galleries created in the
wood by the beetle larvae, providing food for them.