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By Pam Burke 

In admiration of nature's noble dung beetle

 


In admiration of nature's noble dung beetle

By Pam Burke

Having spent most of my adult life without television reception, I've developed an acute interest in nature.

You know how nature people are: keen to hang out in all the popular outdoor places like national parks and vast wilderness areas. They do exciting things like scale tall peaks, kayak down white rapids, fish for "the big one" and hunt or photograph wildlife.

But that's not me so much. No, mostly I just hang out in my yard, skipping stones across the dirt pack, scratching at the gnat bites. I'm simple folk.

Occasionally, though, high adventure does present itself, and I can be all about pursuing the thrill. In fact, just last Saturday I leaped at the opportunity to photograph one of nature's most industrious denizens: the dung beetle, hard at work.

Yes, that's what I said, the dung beetle, and yes, there was dung involved.

I like to think that anyone can take a picture of a magnificent Alaskan brown bear catching salmon as the fish leap up waterfalls on their epic journey to ancient spawning grounds. On the other hand, it takes a special kind of person to appreciate the efforts of a swarm of one-eighth-inch long, bronze colored beetles burrowing into a horse's fresh pile of green digestive tract reject.

And I'm just that special.

I spent the better part of Saturday hanging out at a pile of horse manure taking time lapse-type photographs as hordes of dung beetles and a variety of other bugs reduced that pile of poop into a shallow scattering of dried remains.

Nature ain't always pretty, folks. Or glorious.

But it is interesting. I even took bug samples and photographs to the local county Extension agent and am excitedly awaiting identification of this particular bug and information on its life cycle and habits.

That's how I roll.

The whole nature experience wasn't just about the bugs, either.

When I was right down there in the thick of things, figuratively speaking, with my camera on the macro setting — lens mere inches away from the bugs and the poop — I learned important lessons about life.

For instance, I finally start learning to appreciate the new-fangled display screen on my camera that allows me to see what I'm focused on without having my eye to the camera and, thus, my face in the thick of things, especially green things.

I learned that dung beetles and their little dung buddies don't mess around. OK, yes, they are in a mess of poop already. I knew you were thinking that, but what I mean is they fly in, land without slamming into anyone else and get right to work. No one bothers anyone, no one gets annoyed by anyone else.

Their behavior displays an intense amount of focus seldom seen in one's personal life or the work place. That's a load of integrity coming from thousands of bugs in one manure pile. And not a one of them said, "Ew, ew, ew. Oh gawd! I'm touching poop!" or "This is a bunch of crap! I hate my life!"

The dung beetles, and their burrowing brethren, hardly have their wings tucked before mining their way into the mother lode. When they've done whatever it is they do in a pile of poop, the dung beetles emerge, pull open the two halves of their lustrous bronze shell, throw out their wings and move along to the next phase of their life's work. You go bug.

There it is: Perhaps the most inspiring thing about nature is what it can teach us about ourselves. We can scale a mountain and learn we have fortitude. We can watch a magnificent sunset and revel in our capacity for awe. We can see one animal feeding on another and understand the cycle of life.

Or we can spend hours staring at a pile of poop and figure out how to be a better person.

I also have to say that the experience reinforced a sentiment I've held for a long time: I've always admired hard workers, and I really can sit around all day watching them without a problem — no matter what their species.

(I'm just keeping it real here the White Trash Estate. You don't have to be a dung beetle to visit me at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)

Having spent most of my adult life without television reception, I've developed an acute interest in nature.

You know how nature people are: keen to hang out in all the popular outdoor places like national parks and vast wilderness areas. They do exciting things like scale tall peaks, kayak down white rapids, fish for "the big one" and hunt or photograph wildlife.

But that's not me so much. No, mostly I just hang out in my yard, skipping stones across the dirt pack, scratching at the gnat bites. I'm simple folk.

Occasionally, though, high adventure does present itself, and I can be all about pursuing the thrill. In fact, just last Saturday I leaped at the opportunity to photograph one of nature's most industrious denizens: the dung beetle, hard at work.

Yes, that's what I said, the dung beetle, and yes, there was dung involved.

I like to think that anyone can take a picture of a magnificent Alaskan brown bear catching salmon as the fish leap up waterfalls on their epic journey to ancient spawning grounds. On the other hand, it takes a special kind of person to appreciate the efforts of a swarm of one-eighth-inch long, bronze colored beetles burrowing into a horse's fresh pile of green digestive tract reject.

And I'm just that special.

I spent the better part of Saturday hanging out at a pile of horse manure taking time lapse-type photographs as hordes of dung beetles and a variety of other bugs reduced that pile of poop into a shallow scattering of dried remains.

Nature ain't always pretty, folks. Or glorious.

But it is interesting. I even took bug samples and photographs to the local county Extension agent and am excitedly awaiting identification of this particular bug and information on its life cycle and habits.

That's how I roll.

The whole nature experience wasn't just about the bugs, either.

When I was right down there in the thick of things, figuratively speaking, with my camera on the macro setting — lens mere inches away from the bugs and the poop — I learned important lessons about life.

For instance, I finally start learning to appreciate the new-fangled display screen on my camera that allows me to see what I'm focused on without having my eye to the camera and, thus, my face in the thick of things, especially green things.

I learned that dung beetles and their little dung buddies don't mess around. OK, yes, they are in a mess of poop already. I knew you were thinking that, but what I mean is they fly in, land without slamming into anyone else and get right to work. No one bothers anyone, no one gets annoyed by anyone else.

Their behavior displays an intense amount of focus seldom seen in one's personal life or the work place. That's a load of integrity coming from thousands of bugs in one manure pile. And not a one of them said, "Ew, ew, ew. Oh gawd! I'm touching poop!" or "This is a bunch of crap! I hate my life!"

The dung beetles, and their burrowing brethren, hardly have their wings tucked before mining their way into the mother lode. When they've done whatever it is they do in a pile of poop, the dung beetles emerge, pull open the two halves of their lustrous bronze shell, throw out their wings and move along to the next phase of their life's work. You go bug.

There it is: Perhaps the most inspiring thing about nature is what it can teach us about ourselves. We can scale a mountain and learn we have fortitude. We can watch a magnificent sunset and revel in our capacity for awe. We can see one animal feeding on another and understand the cycle of life.

Or we can spend hours staring at a pile of poop and figure out how to be a better person.

I also have to say that the experience reinforced a sentiment I've held for a long time: I've always admired hard workers, and I really can sit around all day watching them without a problem — no matter what their species.

(I'm just keeping it real here the White Trash Estate. You don't have to be a dung beetle to visit me at http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)

 

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