OK, so that's not it's real name. But it is a dung beetle.
Specifically named the Violet Dor Beetle, or Geotrupes Mutator, if you fancy the latin name.
There are two books that have opened my heart to beetles.
Not just in the way they look, but what they bring to the earth.
I've been feeling a pull towards beetles for a long time.
At first it was just their aesthetic.
I can't explain what it is I like about them, but I find them curiously beautiful.
I have read some amazing books in the last few years that have given me more solid and practical reasons to love these fine insects.
Bernd Heinrich is the author of one of these books. He wrote ‘Life Everlasting, The Animal Way Of Death’ in addition to many other books on my wish list.
This book shows you the remarkable cycle of life on our planet. It explains that death is part of life, that every plant or creature that falls is devoured by something else, and why this is a wonderful thing.
Creatures that we think of as unpleasant, or don’t think of at all, are so important to our ecosystems.
Beetles are great at eating decaying matter. They eat dung, fallen trees, carcasses, they are natures clean up crew.
Bernd talks about lots of species of beetles as well as carrion birds like crows and other insects. Do you remember being fascinated by mini beasts as a child? Getting down on your hands and knees to look at ants or shouting 'BUTTERFLY!' with unconfined joy.
That's what this book is to me.
For a book that has 'death' in the title, it's such a life affirming read. It reminds us that we are part of this earth. Because sometimes we forget.
He has included a whole section on the weird stuff we do to human bodies to make absolutely sure we don't give a single thing bad to the earth that we take so much from. We have removed ourselves from the cycle and now only consume.
He has some wonderful little anecdotes from his experiences. He really slows down and properly looks at the creatures he is studying.
I never knew some parent beetles feed their grubs from their own mouths, just like baby birds! You don’t really think of insects as attentive parents.
Bernd is one of those rare adults that never lost his childlike wonder, and we get to share it in this book.
Another book that solidifies many of the same ideas, is 'Wilding' by Isabella Tree.
(What a romantic name for an author, I feel quite envious)
She and her husband run Knepp
. A farm in West Sussex not too far from where I live.
The story chronicles their adventure transforming their ‘traditional’ farm to a rewilded space.
What surprised me the most is that a lot of what they did to rewild their space was to sit on their hands.
How quickly nature can take back the earth and repair herself, if only we let her.
One of the things they found was that by removing pesticides and worming medications they have seen a huge increase in insects, including the Violet Dor beetle.
This was the first sighting in over 50 years in Sussex.
There are other factors that make Knepp a paradise for beetles. Trees that fall are left to rot. We as a species are in a habit of constantly clearing what we see as clutter. But just as we have removed our own bodies from the cycle of decay and food, we too remove trees.
There are so many species that’s sole purpose is to clear this decaying matter. Beetles thrive in rotten wood.
Naturalists are learning that each species that flourishes has a knock on effect.
As with any food chain, the beetles don't just eat, they too get eaten.
Many birds and mammals enjoy a good crunchy beetle meal, so they too begin to prosper.
There is so much more story to tell about beetles. This only just scratches the surface.
I hope it inspires you to find out more about these precious insects.
I love reading your comments and promise to reply. (Especially if you're the sort of person that reads right to the end of a post about dung beetles.)