Feb 12

Manure, hair dye, and more beetles

Carried off on a wave of enthusiasm for beetles, yesterday I posted these photos in the comments. Considering their sheer gaudiness, the notion of promoting these handsome bugs to the front page suggested itself.

Glove (with rainbow scarab)This is a rainbow scarab, notable not only for its ginormous prong and iridescent awesomeness, but for its taste for horse shit. That’s right. This exquisite relative of the sacred Egyptian scarab, so regal in bearing, eats poop. It is a dung beetle.

Crones such as myself both revere and identify with the dung beetle. Like the insect, the crone is obsessed with horse shit. Whereas dung beetles roll it into little balls, crones while away many a happy hour honing it into giant manure piles that will later become compost. Manure-pile-honing would be impossible without dung beetles. They do the grunt work of crumbling the horse-muffins into their consituent parts, thus rendering themselves essential to the process of elevating humble feces to rich, fragrant dirt.

Dung beetleI’m happy to see a healthy population of dung beetles swarming over my manure, but I don’t want to give the impression that there is nothing dreadful about them. In the warmer months, when I’m picking out the paddocks, I have to race the beetles to the individual poop piles. If the beetles get there first, which they always do, they crumble up the muffins into dirt before I can fork’em into my bucket for later removal to the Master Pile. Once it’s been beetled, a pile of horse shit resembles sand and can’t be forked, so it just sits there in the pasture, attracting flies and exuding pathogens. This results in my having to shake my fist at the sky and bellow “Damn you, dung beetles, damn you!”

Longhorned beetleAs for the blood-red and metallic teal longhorned beetle, I don’t know jack about it except its No.1 Science Information name (Stenaspis verticalis insignis). With that loud color combination they’re pretty arresting when you’re traipsing through the woods and happen to see one lounging on a tree. I have, in my day, had my hair dyed each of those hues. I didn’t know it at the time, but nyah nyah, Mom, it turns out those colors are found in nature.

See more and better photos of the rainbow scarab, and every other bug on the planet, at BugGuide.net, my favorite website ever.


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  1. Laurie

    Glad that you took a long enough break from shit shoveling to tell us about it, and thanks for the truth & beauty, however disturbing.

  2. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Thatte’s amazing thatte those fuckers get right on the shitte so quickly, you barely have time to shovel itte.

  3. Rugosa

    That’s what we need here in the northern urban hellhole – dung beetles that can live through our winters! There are many rude folk who let their dogs shitte on the sidewalk or in the park.

  4. quixote

    Those rainbow scarabs are gorgeous. So is that red-and-teal thingy. And I agree with our Comrraddde: amazing that those movie star beetles powder the shitte so quickly.

  5. That Girl

    I love you and Im glad you’re okay! Beetles, louche loungers and allergies nonwithstanding.

  6. Gertrude Strine

    For nature, quite the popular colour combo.

  7. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Whoa. That is some bird.

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