Monday, September 8, 2014

The hard working dung beetle

When we think of Floridian Nature, we tend to concentrate on large mammals like bears, deer, and panthers or marine mammals like the Florida manatee, or dolphins, but I doubt anyone in Florida works as hard as the dung beetle.

Dung beetles are small beetles found everywhere except for Antarctica. Dung beetles come in a variety of colors, from dull and glossy black to metallic green and red. They are fairly small insects that are capable of moving dung (manure) much larger than they are. In fact one dung beetle can bury dung that is 250 times heavier than itself in one night.

Ancient Egyptians thought very highly of the dung beetle, also known as the scarab and believed the dung beetle kept the Earth revolving like a giant ball of dung, linking the insect to Khepri, the Egyptian god of the rising sun.

Dung beetles are one of the few groups of insects that exhibit parental care for their young. In most cases, the mother constructs the nest and provisions it with food for her young,  but in certain species, both parents share child care duties to some degree.

Its hard to imagine a bug that is dedicated to eating, moving and storing poop could be a fussy eater, but its true! Australians learned this lesson the hard way, when the outback was nearly buried in cattle dung. Two hundred years ago, settlers introduced horses, sheep, and cattle to Australia, all grazing animals that were new to the native dung beetles. The Australian dung beetles were raised on poop from Down Under, like kangaroo poo, and refused to clean up after the exotic newcomers. Around 1960, Australia imported exotic dung beetles that were adapted to eating cattle dung, and things got back to normal.

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