There are around 150 species of dung beetles in the world, with the UK home to roughly 60 species. The majority of our dung beetle species are not the ball rolling varieties that dung beetles are most famous for, but are the dwelling types living within dung piles, or the tunnelling varieties that live deep in the soil. Of course you can come across some beetles rolling very small balls of dung, however it’s not a common sight within this country.
While wandering the woods around Armathwaite recently, I kept coming across upturned Dor Beetles (Geotrupes stercorarius) struggling to get back on their feet, their beautiful violet undersides flashing in the sunlight. After trying to rescue the first couple of beetles, I realised that no matter how many times I got them onto their legs they always seemed to end up on their backs again. It intrigued me why we see so many upturned Dor Beetles scattered on paths in the late summer, so I did a little ‘digging’ myself…
Normally when a Dor Beetle has ended up on its back it will use its legs to build momentum and rock itself over. This works just fine most of the time, however when this species reaches the end of its life cycle, individuals lose their rocking ability due to their failing nervous systems, preventing them the ability to coordinate their legs. This results in countless helpless beetles flailing their legs and violet undersides in the air a the end of the summer months, most often with intrigued people hovering over them wondering what on earth is going on.
Have you seen any intriguing animal behaviour while out exploring the wilds recently? We would love to hear about them!