Into the Wild: Firewood Pile

By MDC | September 1, 2021
From Xplor: September/October 2021

Take a Closer Look

Prairie lizards often bask atop logs and fences on cool fall mornings. But you’ll need sharp eyes to spot them. The wary reptiles dart into crevices at the first sign of danger, and their drab scales help them disappear against barky backgrounds.

Downy and hairy woodpeckers often visit wood piles, looking for insects to eat. Here’s how to tell these head-banging birds apart.

Hairy Woodpecker

  • Robin-sized
  • Beak nearly as long as head
  • White outer tail feathers

Downy Woodpecker

  • Sparrow-sized
  • Beak much shorter than head
  • Spotted outer tail feathers

Heads Up!

Don’t move firewood from one location to another. Doing so can transport tree-killing pests that live inside the logs. Burn the wood near the place where you cut it.


Pill bugs (aka roly-polies) often gather under stacked wood. Although they look like insects, they’re more closely related to shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish. Like their aquatic cousins, pill bugs breathe with gills, which is why they hang out in cool, damp places.

Eastern chipmunks often build their burrows under unused stacks of wood. If you see a chipmunk with chubby cheeks, it isn’t overweight. The busy ’munk has stuffed its mouth with acorns and will store them in its burrow to eat during winter.

Sow bug killers have a scary name and even scarier fangs, but they’re mostly harmless to humans. The spider uses its impressive jaws to pierce the tough armor of sow bugs and pill bugs. Though they may defend themselves if handled, their bite is less painful than many other spiders.

Did You Know?

Soil centipedes have between 27 and 191 pairs of legs, depending on which wiggly species you’re watching. But they always — always! — have an odd number of leg pairs.

What Happened Here?

A spider doesn’t have bones. Instead, armor-like plates on the outside of a spider’s body protect its organs and help hold it together. When the spider grows too big, it sheds its exoskeleton and leaves the old armor behind.


You might be surprised at the pile of critters you’ll find living in a stack of firewood.

Also In This Issue

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Have you got what it takes to bag big trees?

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Attention, tree huggers! Leaf it to this field guide to help you get acquainted with your barky buddies.

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Alexis (AJ) Joyce
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White