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Dung Beetle

On the last night of our recent trip to Zimbabwe we stayed in a roadside motel that sits on the side of a river. When we visited, the river was completely dry so I decided to explore the sandy river bed – it was a rewarding walk.

This is the first interesting subject I encountered – a Dung Beetle. They belong to the Scarabaeoidea superfamily, and are thus related to the Scarab beetle, sacred to the ancient Egyptians. As the name suggests, this family of beetles has a particular penchant for dung. Most eat it, some live in it. This particular one is the Gymnopleurus humanus and belongs to the group of dung beetles known as rollers. They’re know as such because they roll fresh dung into balls and then quickly (before it gets stolen by other dung loving beetles) roll it away from the main dung pile for storage elsewhere. They use the stored dung ball either as a source of food for themselves or the female of a mating pair will lay her eggs in it: the larvae then use it as a food source as they develop.

I was lying belly down in the sand photographing this chap at his eye level. As I moved closer, he stopped, perched on top of his dung ball and stared me down. Not wanting to mess with a poo covered bug, I eventually backed off and let him get on with his dung rolling.

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6 Comments

  1. Kevin says:

    Very beautiful shot and nice details ! Great colors !

  2. tom says:

    This looks like real hard work!

  3. Adrian says:

    Thanks Tom and Kevin.

  4. george says:

    He who turns and runs away
    Lives to fight (photograph) another day.

    A wise thing to do Adrian, but you get a fascinating shot before you scampered away!

  5. That’s a nice pile of dung if I ever saw one! Love that green colour of his shell. Nice work :)

  6. Cerstin says:

    What a hard work for this little bug – … and how beautiful can look dung – like a precious juwel (with the sand corns).

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