Dung Beetle riding its dung ball to ascertain that his direction to the burrow is correct. Near Farmerville, Northeast Louisiana, USA. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

‘Recalculating’, a Dung Beetle riding its dung ball to ascertain that his direction to the burrow is correct. Photographed near Farmerville, Northeast Louisiana, USA. C.Paxton photo and copyright.

While on my way to the bird table I was lucky enough to see an American Dung Beetle of the Melanocanthon Genus in the last stages of its labours rolling its dung ball to its burrow. This industrious insect had painstakingly gathered herbivore’s dung, probably that of rabbits, maybe some from deer, chewed it all up and rolled it into a ball. I ran back home for my camera and captured a few shots with flash on my Sigma SD1 at ISO 200 with a 300 mm lens at its macro setting.

The beetle was very dark brown with glossy black legs and looked to be about an inch long and it was moving quickly, pushing the dung ball backwards with its hind legs while hand-standing with its forelegs. Its path was a relatively difficult one, strewn with sticks and scattered bits of clinker that makes up our garden path material.

The dung beetle at work, propelling its ball toward its burrow with its hind legs. Once underground, she will lay her eggs in it and the larvae will hatch with an abundant food supply.

An American dung beetle at work, propelling its ball toward its burrow with its hind legs. Once underground, she will lay her eggs in it and the larvae will hatch with an abundant food supply.

It disappeared from sight under some sticks and leaves and I went around to the other side, expecting to get more pictures as it emerged into clear view about a foot away, but instead I saw the tail-end of the manouvre, the last sight of the dung ball being pulled underground!

These insects provide a very useful service in that they remove dung from the ground surface, where it can suffocate grass, pull it underground and into the soil, where its young will further break down the poop as they feed and thus fertilize the grassland.

Here is a very interesting article about how Dung Beetles navigate! As you can imagine, it isn’t a simple matter pushing a giant ball, backwards, over rough terrain.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dung-beetle-dance/

Here is another about their food preferences.

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/04/17/weird-wild-dung-beetles-favorite-poop-revealed/