Monday, July 9th 2018
Before we get onto Dung Beetles of the UK I must make mention of the kids from Great Smeaton School who found one during today's Mini-beast Hunt. Aside from searching for Scarabs the group also took part in Pond Dipping, Habitat Walks and Scavenger Hunt activities throughout a fun-filled day at Foxglove.
We had yet to reach the Outdoor Classroom to begin hunting for Mini-beasts when the best of the day's bugs was found.
I am yet to work out which of the 60 species of dung-feeding Scarab Beetles this is, having narrowed it down to a member of the Geotrupes family.
Dung Beetles are grouped according to how they use dung, in Britain we have Tunnellers (Paracoprids) and Dwellers (Endocoprids), but lack the most famous of the groups known as Rollers (Telecoprids).
Tunnellers dig, burying the dung below ground, where they lay eggs and larvae develop. Dwellers generally spend their entire life in the poo, although the larvae of some species are found just under the soil surface.
The individual that the kids from Great Smeaton found was heavily laden with mites, which upon first glance may look to be a bad thing. However transporting mites that eat dung breeding flies is just one of many ecosystem services that these incredible Beetles carry out.
Dung Beetles also dispose of dung, fertilize soil through burying, act as a food source for birds and bats, enhance soil structure, reduce greenhouse gases and improve drainage (these creatures are truly amazing!).
Unfortunately British Dung Beetles are in decline for a number of reasons, including the overwintering of livestock away from fields,short term rotation grazing, removal of permanent pastures, chemical fertilisation of pastures, removal of dung and worming of livestock.
When you look at this list of reasons you quickly notice that they do not apply to the management techniques used here at Foxglove, which is why I hope to see more of these marvellous Mini-beasts in the future.