Dung Beetles: Our Shitty Little Friends

// // 8 Comments
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ pointsg 4000+ pointsh 3000+ pointsi 2000+ pointsj 1000+ pointsk 500+ pointsl 100+ pointsm 1+ points - Newb
0
0

Mankind's association with the dung beetle has been long and colorful, as the insect has played many roles, all the way from being worshiped as a deity to being munched as a tasty snack.

The earliest historical manifestation of these noble insects was in ancient Egypt in approximately 2,700 BC. The nesting habits and daily activities of the insects were such that they were deified as the God Khepri, who rolled the sun from east to west on a daily basis. The Egyptians were advanced enough to realize the absolute necessity of the sun's daily journey and likened it to the dung beetle, or scarab, happily rolling its ball of poop to its nesting area to provide nourishment for its young. The setting of the sun was symbolized by the burial of the poop by the beetle.

Scarabs were also used as a symbol for rebirth, as the immature beetles emerged from the burrows where their mother had laid her eggs in the dung ball before burial. Khepri literally means "he is coming into being", and the ancients thought the young were spontaneously generated from the dung.

Dung beetles have very discerning taste buds, and for the most part eschew the excrement of carnivores in favor of the output of the world's herbivores. Anyone who has ever had their nostrils assailed by the rather pungent aroma of dog shit, especially after releasing all the smell by stepping in it, would readily agree with the dung beetle's choice of appropriate cuisine. Interestingly, there is only one dung beetle species that dines exclusively on human feces (we seem to produce not only a stinky but also an unpalatable product).

Dung beetles are vital for our world and agriculture. In fact, it has been introduced deliberately for agricultural reasons, which has had no downside. By taking care of the dung in fields of cattle and other livestock, they not only recycle the nutrients and enrich the soil, but they also take away breeding grounds for flies. When 23 species were introduced in Australia, the pestilential bush flies were reduced by 90 percent in farmer's fields. Dung beetles are also of high importance to hygiene in developing countries because they bury or eat the dung. The one species that eats human feces exclusively reduces the danger of illness that is passed on by contact with it or by flies laying their eggs in it.

Although they appear well-protected due to their hard shells and horned heads, dung beetles are prey to a number of creatures, including birds, bats, small snakes, large spiders, some reptiles, mongooses and jackals. There is even a species of African plant – Hydnora – which grows on the roots of acacia trees that preys on dung beetles. When it rains, Hydnora sends up enormous red "beetle catcher" flowers that smell remarkably like shit. The flowers have a deep well at the center and slippery petals that prevent the poor beetle from crawling out. The hapless beetle that falls in finds itself in proverbial deep shit, dies, and is used for nourishment by the underground portion of the plant.

Humans are also a minor predator of this species, as traditional Chinese medicine encourages the use of dried dung beetles, called Qianglang, to treat a number of diseases. (Take three dried shit bugs and call me in the morning!)

If you are interested in this folksy type of medical treatment then you can read The Compendium of Materia Medica, compiled by Dr, Li Shizhen during the Ming Dynasty (16th century).

The strangest use of the dung beetle by western standards would be that they are used as food. Some people in Thailand eat roasted Buffalo dung beetles, which are allegedly crunchy, tasty, and are considered a gourmet delicacy. If you're interested in trying some yourself I would imagine a dung beetle found in a nice cow patty in a local barnyard would be just as tasty as one found anywhere in southeast Asia. I personally plan on sticking to possum or groundhog when I have a craving for something a little exotic.

If you need another reason to feel affection toward the lowly and oft overlooked tumble bug just follow this link and take a look at them. They run the appearance gauntlet from cunning to downright gorgeous.

Dung Beetles on NPR

8 Comments on "Dung Beetles: Our Shitty Little Friends"

the thin brown line's picture
j 1000+ points

Dung Beetles-with the odds stacked against them, making our world a better place.... gods deserving all praise...Dung Beatles..Liverpool lads..created some bitchen music...thanks Chief!!!

Somethin' mysterious made an exit from the gift shop.

MSG's picture
Comment Quality Moderatori 2000+ points

In a Pooetry section entitled "Dung Diaries" back in June of 2009 I wrote a poem about scarabs. I like it; check it out (write "scarab" in the SEARCH box). Actually, dung beetles are awesome; amazing creatures for a most unusual niche in nature.

brown shitty girl's picture

That's awesome to know especially about the plant that smells like shit!! The only other plant that gives off orders like decaying matter is the corpse flower..

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ pointsg 4000+ pointsh 3000+ pointsi 2000+ pointsj 1000+ pointsk 500+ pointsl 100+ pointsm 1+ points - Newb

Dear brown shitty girl, First of all I love your choice of user names. There are several plants in the world that share the odor of decaying matter with, well ... decaying matter. I love the taste of durian fruit which has been described, among other descriptions, as tasting like rotted onions and smelling like an outhouse. There is the stink horn mushroom which smells like a dead creature and has its spores spread by flies. We live in a wonderful, but sometime stinky, world.


_______
Dirty old men need love too!!

If I had two faces do you think I'd be wearing this one?

PooPooTigress's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

The corpse flower is one my favorites. Even though it smells awful, it's still beautiful.
_______
Shit happens...then you need a shovel.

Shit happens...then you need a shovel.

Johnny Crap's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

I have worked in infrastructure for several years. Many is the time when a project underwent significant changes because the environmental impact statement found that the project would affect the local fauna - many time, the dung beetles. First of all, it's priceless to read an EPA report with the word "dung" all over it. Secondly, armed with this knowledge, I'm going to bitchslap all the naysayers and non-believers who think that EPA does much ado about nothing.
Thanks Chief!

_______
We all live in a brown submarine, a brown submarine.

We all live in a brown submarine, a brown submarine.

Thunderbox's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Quality Moderatorj 1000+ points

I`ve seen many dung beetles in the past going about their tasks of rolling great balls of shit back home. Beetles in general are the only bugs I like....most of the rest of insects and the like suck.

The voice of sanity

ChiefThunderbutt's picture
PoopReport of the Year AwardComment Content ModeratorComment Quality Moderatorf 5000+ pointsg 4000+ pointsh 3000+ pointsi 2000+ pointsj 1000+ pointsk 500+ pointsl 100+ pointsm 1+ points - Newb

Thanks to the small size of many houses a lot of Japanese boys, and men, keep beetles as pets. The stag beetle is probably the most popular and can live up to five years. That's a longer life expectancy than many hamsters. Avid collectors say that different bugs have different personalities.

I think I'll stick to my cats but I do admire insects. The praying mantis is one of my favorites but the doo-doo bug is high on my list also.


_______
Dirty old men need love too!!

If I had two faces do you think I'd be wearing this one?

Post new comment

  • Allowed HTML tags: s:62:"<em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <br>";
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.