Dung beetles rolling along the footpath to the Rainey Lake pier at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Taken on Pentax K-1 with Pentax 100mm F 2.8 macro lens by C. Paxton

Dung beetles paused rolling along the footpath to the Rainey Lake pier at Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge long enough for me to take a ‘pixel shift’ image to capture all the detail that I could. Exposure compensation with -2.7 stops set, F 25 1/3 sec x4 at ISO 100 and merged in camera. Developed in Affinity photo with tone mapping. Taken on Pentax K-1 with Pentax 100mm F 2.8 macro lens by C. Paxton

Spiders webs catching mist droplets on the approach road to Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken on Ricoh Pentax K-1 with Sigma 70-300mm lens and developed in Affinity Photo with Topaz Adjust. C. Paxton

Spiders’ webs catching mist droplets on the approach road to Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken F5.6 1/800 on Ricoh Pentax K-1 with Sigma 70-300mm lens at 210mm setting and developed in Affinity Photo with Topaz Adjust. C. Paxton

My wife and I were thrilled to encounter these dung beetles on the footpath to Rainey Lake at Tensas River NWR. These amazing creatures are very determined about first finding some suitable animal manure, then shaping it into a neat ball and then bringing it to their burrow to serve as incubator for eggs and later as food for the larvae. This was the first time we’d seen two beetles on one dung ball.  This was a great opportunity to indulge in some insect macro photography.

The day began very early, we fortified ourselves with some fresh doughnuts and coffee and set out into the mist. I was just about awake when we turned off the I-20 and headed for Quebec on Highway 80.

Neither of us had ever seen such a mist here and we knew it was going to be a rather special day of photography. The mist was thick enough to partially obscure the farming irrigation machinery. The first subject that caught our eyes were the many spiders’ webs in the hedge-row. Normally next to invisible, these webs now stood out, slightly ghostly and mysterious, an effective mosquito barrier in each gap in the hedge.

At the bridge we paused to admire the bird-song, then we pressed on down the road towards Africa Lake. Here we saw a Raccoon licking its fur in a hammock of wild grapevines in the process of bedding down for the day!

Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge looking spendid in early morning mist. Taken on Pentax K-1 by C. Paxton.

Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge looking spendid in early morning mist. Taken on Pentax K-1 by C. Paxton. 

It was on our walk along the footpath to Rainey Lake that we encountered the beetles. The propulsion is undertaken entirely in reverse, with a beetle driving the ball behind it with its rear legs while hand-standing on its fore-legs.

The larger heavier beetle was just along for the ride it seemed, all the work at this stage was being undertaken by the smaller one.

While in motion, the beetles extended their brush-like antenae.

These beetles will be included in Wildopeneye’s forthcoming exhibition “Life in the Leaf Litter”.