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Insect Safari: Dung beetles at Pamuzinda Lodge, as winter rolls in!

Now that the rains have begun much of the insect world is coming to life. One group I have noticed as they trundle about with incredible loads is the dung beetles at Pamuzinda. There are 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.

Species that are most often noticed feed on the dung of animals such as herbivores. These beetles roll the dung into huge balls larger than their body size. Immediately they 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. Dung beetles are determined to move in a straight line even in the presence of obstacles. This is when we tend to notice them.

When the dung beetles at Pamuzinda or anywhere else manage to negotiate the obstacle course, the ball is buried in their burrows. The ball acts as a food source, providing nutrition for the adults and the young when they emerge.

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

Dung beetle at Pamuzinda Safari odge trying to push ball up a 90 degree vertical
Dung beetle at Pamuzinda attempting the impossible

Tortoise Attempted Mating: Knocking on the shell

A female tortoise in the same head for heights was further along the same ditch. I spotted her being pursued by an amorous male. The female exhibited very little interest. However, the male tortoise 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, tortoises actually make noise – to signal his intentions.

The male uses these moves to initiate courtship. I can remember being in Sparta in Southern Italy in late Sept/early Oct one year to photograph Autumn Crocuses. There are a great many species in that region.

It was early morning and I was on a beautiful flower-filled mountainside. 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 initiate 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. She went straight up the side of the ditch. I thought she was attempting the impossible but she persevered and finally made good, her escape.

Brian Pettit.  “www.naturepicturesworldwide.com

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Insect Safari: Dung beetles at Pamuzinda Lodge, as winter rolls in!

Insect Safari: Dung beetles at Pamuzinda Lodge, as winter rolls in!
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