Ding Dong Dung Beetle Saves His Poo Ball
Ding Dong Dung Beetle happily rolled his poo ball under the light of the moon. He had spent many productive hours in the cow pasture forming one of the steaming cow pies into a beautiful round ball. Ding Dong, like all dung beetles, was strong as could be. His ball weighed nearly ten times as much as he did. He climbed on top of it and got his bearings from looking at the night sky. He was also a master of navigation. He knew exactly how to get back to his house. He hopped down and put his back legs on the ball and started to roll it home. But then, along came that mean, and big, Billy Bully Beetle. Billy Bully knocked the ball away from Ding Dong. Before Ding Dong even figured out what had happened, Billy Bully and the beautiful ball, the one it had taken Ding Dong all day to make, were rolling into the distance.
Ding Dong sighed. This was not the first time Billy Bully had stolen his dung ball, but he was determined that it would be the last time. But how could he stop him? Billy Bully was bigger and stronger. Ding Dong was tired. He had worked hard in the hot sun all day, so he went back to the cow pie and had a little snack, then he burrowed underneath it and went to sleep. He knew that the sky would be brighter in the morning and his mood would be too. Then he would figure out what to do.
As he slept, he heard the sounds of the cows snoring and he felt the warm raindrops that fell almost every night. His hard shell kept him dry and the rain felt cool and lovely after the hot sunny day.
The rain stopped and, after a while, the sun came up. Ding Dong beetle awoke refreshed and ready to start the new day’s work. And he had an idea of how to stop Billy Bully from stealing his pooh ball. He worked quickly, for he had a lot to do to make his plan work. The day was hot, but the dung was cool and moist. Life was good for Ding Dong, if only he could get his poo ball back to his house. He finished his work as the sun began to set again. He hoped his plan would work. As always, he pushed his poo ball out into the open. He checked to make sure that the ball was in just the right spot. This time he didn’t climb up on top. Instead he ran around the ball, waiting for Billy Bully to show up. His brain, about the size of a grain of rice, was whirring with excitement. Ding Dong Dung Beetle danced around his poo ball, anxious to teach Billy Bully a lesson.
But Billy Bully didn’t come. Just as he was about to give up and head for home, there came that big, mean beetle lumbering across the field, straight toward Ding Dong and his special dung ball.
“You’re not going to get this one,” said Ding Dong, his back feet against the ball as though he were going to roll it away. “You might as well go back home.”
“Oh, yeah?” said Billy Bully. “We’ll just see about that.”
Billy Bully jumped onto the poo ball, knocking Ding Dong out of the way as he passed. It didn’t though, and it didn’t interfere with Ding Dong’s plan. As he fell, Ding Dong kicked the poo ball as hard as he could. It didn’t budge, but something was happening.
Billy Bully dung beetle started to dance on top of the ball. Ding Dong ran fast and hard into the ball with his hard shovel of a head. The ball split in two and then Billy Bully disappeared. Ding Dong had put grass in the center of the ball and then pulled it out so it was hollow, with a hole at one end But that wasn’t the end of Ding Dong’s plan. Ding Dong had played a kind of beetle golf that afternoon. After he finished making his hollow ball, he kicked it with his back feet until it landed right on the hole of the pocket gopher. It fit perfectly. The hole was very deep. Not so deep that Billy Bully couldn’t get out, but deep enough to give Ding Dong dung beetle time to roll away his real poo ball and time for a little happy dance!
He peeked over the edge of the gopher hole and heard scuttling noises.
“That will teach you to steal poo balls,” he shouted.
He didn’t wait to hear if Billy Bully replied.
He pulled out his real dung ball, did his dung beetle navigation dance to get the direction and headed straight for home. He loved his spot near the mossy rock in the soft dirt. He uncovered the opening to his tunnel, pushed the ball into and climbed in after it. He snuggled up with his poo ball in his cozy nest and fell fast asleep.
Ok, if feels a little weird to be writing about balls of dung, but dung beetles are another of the amazing creatures I discovered in Central America. I didn’t see them in the wild, but at the Butterfly Garden in Monteverde, CR. Actually they live in warm places all over the world. They actually navigate using the sun or the stars, which is pretty amazing. And they were the kind of beetle that was honored in Egypt. They believed that there were only male dung beetles and that they injected their sperm into the dung balls to create new life. They also compared them to the sun god, Khepri, who created himself out of nothing. They also compared the beetles to Khepri because they pushed their dung balls just like Khepri pushed the sun across the sky after creating it anew every day.
Also, Hans Christian Anderson wrote a story about a dung beetle, The Beetle Who Went on His Travels. And there is an Aesop fable and even a Greek myth about the beetles–check out the Wikipedia article. I even found a TED talk about dung beetles!
And they serve an important role in the environment, turning animal waste into soil and also removing animal excrement that can attract flies and other harmful insects. Most kinds prefer poo from vegetarian or omnivorous animals.
Oh, and there are dung beetles, who shall remain nameless, who steal the poo balls of other beetles. They use the balls for food, they lay eggs in them and they are used in courting rituals where the males use them to attract the female.
OK–enough, but they are really cool critters!
And thanks for stopping by!