Egyptians worshipped a sun god named Khepri, with a head of scarab and body of a human. The scarab is a dung beetle belonging to ‘Scarab’aeidae family. Because the female beetles lay their eggs in a ball of rolled dung, the young scarabs’ seemingly spontaneous emergence from the earth, associated them with transformation and manifestation. The Egyptians also associated the beetle habit of rolling balls of dung far larger than themselves with daily movement of the sun.
Dung beetles come in thousands of variations but are identified under 3 categories – rollers, tunnelers or dwellers, depending on what they do with the dung. They are the mightiest beings on earth pulling 1,141 times it own weight! Its like a human being pulling 6 double decker buses!
Dung beetles are the best no-till drill. In the process of putting dung and urine into the soil, they not only make it fertile and aerated but also bury seeds with their tunneling. Some seeds have to be scarified in order to germinate, and so when beetles bring seeds down deeper, they build a valuable seed bank. A lot of people think dung beetle are another fly and use insecticide. If cows are not moving to graze, they will keep infesting themselves with parasites. Its better to keep cows moving, so that parasite life cycle is shorter than their stay. Why kill something so valuable for the soil, as a dung beetle? In Indian pastoral past, letting a fly sit on the cow was considered a ‘sin’. When the cow grazes and moves, it keeps grass (cover crops) alive, tills the land and lets dung beetles do the job of putting cow dung and seeds where they belong – deep within the earth. If flies start coming in, it means the chain has been broken somewhere. The problem is not the fly but how we are managing the cattle and land. As more farmers switch to natural farming, areas in Maharastra has recorded 11 new varieties of dung beetles. We have to celebrate the bio-diversity by keenly observing and non-interference.
Considering the importance of scarab beetles as indicators of environmental change, continuous monitoring of diversity of these species among representative localities will be beneficial ecologically.