Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dung Beetles

Ladies and Gentlemen, gardening friends of all ages, I bring you today, for the first time to be witnessed by many of your naive eyes, that most industrious of insects, creatures without which the world would be in a sh**storm of trouble.  I bring you the lowly dung beetle.

Look how busy Frick and Frack dung beetle are.  They had formed this almost perfectly round ball of cow or donkey manure (likely since those are the major source of poop in the area) and they were rolling it across a 15 foot asphalt road in the hot afternoon sun.  Why they didn't build their home on the same side of the street as the poop, I'll never know.  I'd love to tell you what species these guys are, but since there are several subfamilies of dung beetles in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, and more than 5000 species in the subfamily Scarabaeinae alone, I don't have a chance of even coming close.  For some fun dung beetle facts, consider the following:

a)  There are three groups of dung beetles;  rollers (like the ones above), tunnelers (who bury the dung wherever they find it, and dwellers (who just live in the manure).
b)  A dung beetle can bury dung 250 times its weight in a single night.
c)  Dung beetles are the only insect known to navigate using the Milky Way.
 d) It is likely that this ball of crap I photographed is intended as a brooding ball; two beetles, one male and one female, stay around the brooding ball during rolling, the male doing all of the work (as usual).  When they find a spot with soft soil, they bury the ball and then mate underground so the female can lay eggs in it.
e)  The successful introduction of 23 species into Australia resulted in improvement and fertility of Australian cattle pastures and reduction in the population of bush flies by 90%.
f)  If the idea of these things grosses you out, try and remember that the Egyptians worshipped the scarab, a dung beetle.

Hey, waste collection is a lousy job, but somebody has to do it.


  1. Really enjoyed this post. I've only seen dung beetles rolling balls of poop like this a couple times, but it sure is fascinating to watch. I hadn't realized how much poop they can bury in a single night!

    1. And I didn't realize they rolled alone unless they were engaged in foreplay!


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