Country diary: the sacred giants of the dung-beetle world

The year seemed finely balanced as we ambled down to the pond at Little Barbrook in the evening sunshine. Bracken was crisping to bronze and the birch leaves were turning, yet it had been the warmest day in weeks and heat was still radiating off the dusty track. So slipping into the chocolate-coloured water to cool off was a pleasure, knowing all the while that this might be the last swim of summer, a valediction of sorts and a reminder that the seasons still roll along, even in these strange and stressful times.

Back on shore and half-dry, we had just started for home when I noticed something shimmering in the dirt. I scooped it up and marvelled: a dor beetle, counted among the dung beetles, its elytra, or wing cases, divided and the wings outspread, as though it had met its end in flight, perhaps taking off too late from the warm earth to escape a bicycle wheel. When I tilted my palm, its black body glittered purplish blue in the long rays of the setting sun, as though I’d discovered a jewel. No wonder the Egyptians thought scarabs divine.

Broadly oval in shape, dors are the giants of the British dung-beetle world, and while there are only a handful of species, telling them apart can be difficult. This one was particularly big, being 26mm in length, and the markings on those glittering wing cases suggested Geotrupes stercorarius.

We think of dung beetles as rolling balls of dung across the ground, but they are divided into “rollers” and “burrowers”. The genus – Geotrupes, “earth-borer” – gives the game away. This beetle digs, or rather dug, deep shafts under a nourishing pile of dung, and side chambers where the female lays a single egg, bringing small packets of dung for larvae to eat before sealing them inside. Some pupate in the autumn; others wait until spring.

Flipping the beetle on its back, I studied its iridescent abdomen, fringed with violet and green, as well as a stronger version of the metallic blue that was a feature of its wing cases. I wanted to keep it, so I nestled my treasure in some damp clothes. But before we even reached the car the brilliance of its colours had faded.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Enter Your Information Below To Receive Free Trading Ideas, Latest News, And Articles.

Please Enter Your Email Address:

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us and our affiliates. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!


The cat’s whiskers: new way of counting lions could boost conservation efforts

From widescreen high-definition wildlife documentaries to food brands, royal crests, sporting teams and Disney movies, the lion is one of the most appropriated and...

The US Election Announcement 2020

Please be informed that the US presidential election may lead to a harsh increase of volatility and lack of liquidity for a certain number...

US Election Day

Due to the upcoming presidential elections in the USA which are going to take place on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, markets may be expected to...

Brazil experiences worst start to Amazon fire season for 10 years

The Amazon has seen the worst start to the fire season in a decade, with 10,136 fires spotted in the first 10 days of...

Farmers across Europe bank on improvised armies of pickers to save harvest

At this time of year John Greene is usually preparing to welcome dozens of Slovakian strawberry pickers for another harvest at his farm in...