The Dung Beetles among Us

Today, I tackled the strip of pine, blackberry, and tulip popular growth behind the fence with the weed-whacker, armed with a blade. Then I spotted one of the sweet spires laying on its side, dug up. I cut off the weed whacker and redug the hole, promising to bring it some water when I went to get my own. Then I heard something moving on the end of the woods. It paused, then another rustle through the pinestraw. I saw a plant waving and cautiously took a look. Two large beetles with a ball of something!

They were  a pair of Deltochilum gibbosumHumpback Dung Beetles. The male is the one with the raised areas on his back; he was the one pushing the dung, while the female just hung on for the ride. Sorry for the shakiness of the picture; weed whacking has that effect. :)​

​ Rolling, rolling, rolling… I’m not sure where he got that much dung; they were at least 10 feet from the fence, but there are rabbits and deer that frequent the area. Jon Storm writes, “They are attracted to carrion, dung, animal fur, fungi, and rotting fruit. These items serve as starting material for the pear-shaped egg ball (approximately 40 mm in diameter) into which the female will lay an egg and then cover it with mud and leaves. The egg ball is often seen being rolled across the forest floor by the beetles before being deposited into a small depression in the ground. Larvae then develop within the egg ball.” They apparently are also attracted to porch lights, but if I saw something that big flying around the light, I wouldn’t pen the door!

When I stepped closer, the male would pause and wave his antennae around, then go back to pushing the ball. His sole focus was getting that ball to its nesting site, regardless of what was happening around him. Kind of like how many people work – totally focused on the job at hand instead of keeping one ear out for what is going on in the workplace, with their coworkers, with the business itself. We could benefit from being more like the sparrow, ever vigilant of her surroundings, taking care of her flock, and ready for what’s next.

​I also stirred up a small box turtle (Terrapene carolina) while whacking the weeds, which is a good reminder to whack brush higher above the ground than you cut grass.

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