the dung beetle…

the dung beetle-hiding its doo
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


I am not a specialist in entomology so I do not know the proper scientific name for this beetle-but,it is easy to just call them dung beetles!

To give you the best layman’s education about this creature is that they locate a mound of poop somewhere and take on the job to dice it up into smaller pieces-although at times three times larger than the beetle itself. They roll this chunk of poop-sometimes several yards away from the original pile and they ‘sink’ it into a burrow they build on site.

I don’t know what regions these beetles thrive in-I know here in Florida they do offer a short term moment of entertainment-the whole idea of hoarding  chunks of poop is comical-just as watching these determined little bugs work the things along.

Let me tell you how I came across this guy.

This past weekend I was invited to guest at a beach house-a very high class celebrity class home. The home was built right on the Atlantic shore near St.Augustine Florida. This type of real estate is not cheap-the entire street my hosts had built on was wall to wall million dollar homes. Right across the street were individual beach access boardwalks. Looking down north or south at the horizon one can see hundreds of these boardwalks to protect the sea oats-all individually costing the homeowners thousands of dollars to construct.

The dung beetle was found at the entrance of one of these boardwalks…an interest note is of all the people that bring their dogs to the beach,and sure enough-the dog poop is obvious…all the while beach goers run and play bare footed risking a plop into a poodle bomb. The dog poop is why the dung beetle is there.

My friend and I stood in awe watching this little guy rolling his take along. Miniature sand dunes prevented him a speedy job of ease-he worked his little legs off shoving this lump up and over the challenging ramp-and as he neared the top the lump would be out of its control and would roll in no direct way to the bottom-just inches away,but mountains to this bug,and sometimes in the direction he just worked so hard to keep behind him.

Just to give you a sense of what I am talking about-the dung beetles footprints begin at the lower left corner of the photograph and and you can see the beetle in the center of the photo-the dark dot,and laying barely visible next to him is the lump of poop-slightly hidden and rather sandy- he worked so hard to move there.

A couple walked up…”what are you looking at”?  was the question. “A poop beetle rolling a turd” was our response. They began to watch too-laughing as the beetle the lump at the top of its dune and the lump rolled away from its owner….ooohs and ahhhs and giggles were made. Another couple walks up-understand,we are standing at the entrance of the boardwalk that leads to the beach,so traffic was picking up!

“What is it…what are you looking at”? the new couple asked.  ” A beetle rolling along a big piece of poop” was our groups reply. There we were-six grown adult people-standing there watching the feats of this determined bug.

I started to take in the surroundings-I’ve seen hundreds of these guys in action. That’s why there’s no worry about stepping in dog poop in at my place-nature takes care of everything in simple ways. Here we were-my pal and I guests in our beach front home,but these couples had spent quite a sum to rent one of these homes for the week-one couple said they were from Maryland and never saw such a beetle.

I couldn’t help pointing out the folly in the whole scene. I said something about how funny it was that folks desire to come to the ocean because it is a beautiful place and unique to many who have no access to the shore…and I said it is so funny that here we were surrounded by millions of dollars in homes-pointing out the expense it is to come to the beach-and here we were,standing just yards away from the ocean watching a beetle roll this piece of poop.

Well…the folks didn’t wish to be a part of the humor-so they hurried along up the ramp along the boardwalk to the beach. If only their neighbors back home were to hear of the beetle.

My pal and I stood watching for a while longer-laughing about the truth of what I just said. Interesting-we as humans desire the luxury of wealth and to be able to have a house with porches facing the ocean view…and here is this beetle just as close to the shore as we were. All it cared about was getting that lump of poop to a safe spot-I suppose for a source of food,what else could a dung beetle want? It did not give one blink of an eyes concern for the wealth that surrounded it. It was not even concerned with us watching it.

That thing stuck in my head for most of the day. It reminded me of the monk I once met back in the 70’s at a rock festival of sorts. We were all around a camp fire drinking and talking and I mentioned I owned five acres just walking distance from where we were sitting. The monk said I owned nothing-I argued that I did,but he insisted that I owned nothing. Later that night I stepped off into the woods to pee-and I was standing there looking up at the stars and out of the darkness came this voice…he said that I owned all of those stars. It was the monk I argued with before-he told me there was no way to physically own anything. He said everything was spiritually mine-no matter where I was or what I was seeing…all of that belonged to me. He assured me I did not own five acres-I only owned what I see.

There is a proverb in the bible (Proverbs 30:24-28) that says there are four things which are little upon the earth,but the are exceeding wise-they  are the ant,the locust and a spider,along with a small critter like a badger.

Thinking about that beetle and all those riches that surrounded us consumed me. I remember those beaches from back in the 1970’s when we could drive along the coastal highway and just choose a spot to go through the sea oaks (another part of foilage-no longer there) and have a great private spot to enjoy the surf. You could drive all the distance from St.Augustine down to Daytona Beach-and barely miss seeing the ocean from your car. Not any more.

Who is the richest? Who can build the biggest and better-and forget the sea oaks?

The dung beetle! His life is the richest!

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