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As winter rolls in, so do the dung beetles!

Dung Beetles

Now that the rains have begun much of the insect world is coming to life. One group that I have noticed as they trundle about with incredible loads, is the dung beetles. There are a great many species of these interesting insects, both large and small, and I am no expert in their identification. What I can do, though, is admire their determination. Those species that are most often noticed feed on the dung of animals such as herbivores. They roll it into huge balls, compared to their body size, and immediately set out from the dungpile to their home burrow. If they tarry there is always the chance of having their prize ball hijacked by a larger species. They seem determined to move in a straight line regardless of obstacles, and this is when we tend to notice them.

If they manage to negotiate the obstacle course the ball is then buried in their burrows and acts as a food source for both the adults and the young when they emerge.

The one depicted was spotted on one of our Insect Photography Walks, here at Pamuzinda Safari Lodge. It was determined to move straight up the side of an earth bank having complete disregard for the laws of gravity.

Tortoise Pursuit

Sharing the same head for heights somewhat further along the same ditch, was a female tortoise. I spotted her being pursued by an amorous male in whom she presumably had little interest. He was a very determined fellow and followed relentlessly hot on her heels. When he caught up he started bashing into her shell and yelling – Yes, they actually make a noise – to signal his intentions.

This is the way that male Tortoises initiate courtship. I can remember being in Sparta in Southern Italy late Sept/early Oct one year to photograph Autumn Crocuses – of which there are a great many species in that region. It was early morning and I was on a beautiful flower filled mountain side. The “sound of silence, peace and tranquillity” was marred only by a perpetual knocking, as if trees were being felled all around. Further investigation showed the source of the noise to be countless pairs of amorous Tortoises. The males initiated courtship by bashing into the shells of their potential mates. That apart, our female, here in Zimbabwe, was not in the least interested in anything other than getting away. She took the only route open to her where his extra weight would be a distinct disadvantage, and went straight up the side of the ditch. I thought she was attempting the impossible but she persevered and, as the accompanying images show, finally made good her escape.

Brian Pettit.  “www.naturepicturesworldwide.com”

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As winter rolls in, so do the dung beetles!

As winter rolls in, so do the dung beetles!
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