Zambia: Scarab Dung Beetle in Western Zambia
Driving along the dusty roads of Western Zambia, we came across a giant dung beetle rolling an equally giant roll of dung – not a common site to see. First of all, dung beetles are massive and they can fly – like mini B-52 bombers. The dung beetle flies around in search of fresh dung, lands on it and cuts out a nice portion, rolling it into a perfect ball, sometimes up to 10x its own weight. Often the ball is rolled for food, but it can also be rolled as a brooding ball. A male rolls the ball to give it to a female to mate and then the female rolls the ball to bury it underground and deposit eggs inside, that little freshly-born beetles will consume after birth. Interestingly, once the dung beetles roll a ball, they continue rolling it in an absolutely straight line in search of soft sandy soil to deposit the ball. Scarab dung beetles were revered in ancient Egypt and their depictions are often found in tombs. Egyptians equated the dung beetles rolling of their balls with the sun movement and this beetles were associated with the sun god Ra (Egyptians believed a giant scarab was rolling the sun each day from east to west). Egyptian also associated dung beetles with resurrection – after seeing a beetle bury a ball and then little beetles coming out from the ground alive). And surprise – we even got to see how the scarab dung beetle buried the ball in the soft sand!