It sounds like a science fiction story starring beetles: a queen beetle, or “foundress”, establishes a colony in the trunk of a live eucalyptus tree. She excavates tunnels and establishes a fungus garden with the help of her sterile worker sisters.
The foundress is known as “life-time inseminated”, living on stored sperm from one original male. Some 90% of foundresses fail in their attempts to establish a colony. They are preyed upon, or trapped by tree sap covering the entrance tunnel.
However, once the colony is established, the diminutive queen may live for 10, 20 or even 30 years – making the Australian wood-boring ambrosia beetle (Austroplatypus incompertus) probably the longest-lived in the world.