As a wildlife photographer, I’m always on the lookout for curious creatures and intriguing behaviors to document. During a recent bout of yard work, I stumbled upon a scene that captured my imagination: a dung beetle diligently rolling a ball of poop, while tiny baby beetles clung to the sphere.
While dung beetles elicited disgust from some, I was fascinated by their ecological role. By burying and consuming dung, they improve soil structure and recycle nutrients. They also disperse seeds found in waste, benefiting plant growth. It’s incredible to watch a beetle transport its payload in a straight line, navigating obstacles with precision.
Not all dung beetles exhibit this rolling behavior. Some tunnel underground where they find dung, while others called dwellers live in the manure without moving it. To many, it’s surprising that beetles feed on waste to provision their young. This reveals the intricate connections in nature.
I feel privileged to document special moments like this beetle family using my camera gear. My Fujifilm X-T3 paired with a Canon EF 100-400mm lens and Fringer adapter is always ready to capture close-up wildlife encounters near my home.
Shutter Speed: 1/500 sec
Focal Length: 400 mm
Even creatures we deem unseemly have an important place in ecological systems. I’m honored to glimpse the beauty and complexity of nature in my own backyard through photography. The dung beetle family exemplifies the hidden wonders that abound, if we take the time to notice.
Steve Creek, Wildlife Photographer
Fascinating Fact About Dung Beetles:
The male and female cooperate in caring for their offspring. After mating, the female excavates a chamber in the ground and fashions the dung into a compact ball, upon which she lays a single egg.
Once the egg is laid, the parents work together, taking turns rolling the ball into a secure location to serve as food and shelter for the larva once it hatches. The male and female even regulate the temperature of the nesting ball to ensure ideal conditions for the developing young.
Researchers have found that dung beetle parents face a trade-off between producing a smaller ball that they can move and manipulate more easily versus a larger ball that contains more resources for the offspring. The size of the nesting ball determines the size of the adult beetle that will emerge from it.
Young dung beetles go through a complete metamorphosis. The larva pupates inside the protection of the nesting ball and emerges as an adult about 4-5 weeks after the egg was laid. New adults will live for up to 3 years.
Dung beetles are incredibly strong for their size. They can pull over 1,000 times their own body weight. Their impressive navigation abilities come from using celestial cues to orient themselves and rolling balls in straight paths.