While exploring the Willoughby 40 hiking area, Annie’s nine-year-old daughter spotted a dung beetle pushing a dung ball with its back feet. They watched for a little while until it stopped on some dried grass, crawled underneath and the dung ball slowly went lower and lower until it was completely covered in the dry grass. The first picture shows the beetle rolling the dung ball and the second shows the ball half way under the dry grass …what an amazing process to see!
According to Merrill A. Peterson, in his book Pacific Northwest Insects, “Although we have many dung feeders, only one of those species performs the famous and comical behavior of rolling dung balls. Multiple individuals may work together to form these balls, which are then rolled away from the source as a buried food source for their offspring.” (The Pacific Northwest includes part of western Montana.) Dung beetles (subfamily Scarabaeinae) can also be dwellers, living and reproducing inside the food source and rarely creating nests, or tunnelers, digging tunnels beneath the food source creating nests. Whatever the method, they provide important economic and environmental services in the form of manure recycling.
Photos by: Annie Bernauer on 6/11/21 near Stevensville, MT