Africa

Postcard: The Life and Times of the Poop Ball Beetle (Video)

I never thought I’d be fascinated by anything that spent its day in poop, but I am.

I’m talking about the dung beetle, a very industrious insect with a Sci-fi exoskeleton that’s an integral part of nature’s waste disposal management team.

Dung beetle rolling his dung

Isn’t he the craziest looking creature? He’s taking a moment to navigate.

There’s a variety of dung beetles: some live in poop, some bury their poop and others, like this little guy, make poop balls, ( I’ve never actually seen a poop ball being made, I just chalk it up to insect magic because they always seem to have one), but all of them eat it. (Yum!)

More importantly, they help to keep the planet clean, otherwise there would be a lot of excrement piling up. Granted, they’re not the only things that help to break down fecal matter, but they’re definitely one of the most intriguing.

In case you’re curious, herbivores make the most delicious poop. Cows, elephants, buffalos… Their poop retains plenty of moisture and in the case of elephants, a large percentage of what’s eaten passes through undigested, meaning lots of tasty meals for all the little beetle babies.

If you haven’t seen a dung beetle do its thing, it’s very entertaining. I mean, it’s not like bingeing on a season of Game of Thrones but it’s pretty good.

They’re six-legged gymnasts that flip into a handstand, saddle up to the poop and with their back legs, roll their dung balls backwards to wherever their beetle brood is stashed. Periodically, they stop to climb their dung ball to navigate and once they re-calibrate they start all over.

Dung beetle rolling his dung

Hand stand!

Check it out…

 

 

~ Taken during a game drive while staying at Molori Safari Lodge in Madikwe South Africa. 

 

 

15 replies »

  1. I love your photos of the dung beetle in action. My kids and I are all rather fond of dung beetles. We used to love scooping up Dor Beetles when we were on forest walks back home in Scotland. I actually get strangely homesick when I think about them with their beautiful metallic purple underbellies.

    Like

  2. Susan: Loved the entertaining and enlightening post. On my first trip to Africa many years ago, my son told me about the “dung beetles.” Since we like to joke a lot in the family, I initially thought he was kidding. Ever the creature lover, my then 11 year-old son gave the complete run down on them.

    Liked by 1 person

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