Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The incredible dung beetle

Note - You can see from this picture that the Dung Beetle is rolling an Alpaca bean towards the hole he has dug out.

A little background history:

When we first purchased our foundation herd I had researched the communal dung pile and the statistics that Alpacas leave a deposit on average of one pound of Alpaca beans per day. My foundation herd consisted of 4 females and 2 males which would result in a daily "gift" of six pounds of excrement per day. I knew that shoveling the beans would be a daily chore and one I was not looking forward to. After about one week I noticed that the bean pile was becoming smaller each day and there were small clumps of fresh dirt in and around the dung piles. I studied the piles at various times of the day and found that early in the morning there were small bugs about the size of a quarter in and around the dung piles. They reminded me of scarabs that were in the movie The Mummy.

My first thought was to eradicate these scary little bugs but I thought I should do a bit of research first and I am so glad I did. The dung beetles that have made my farm their home fly from pile to pile mostly during the night and dig holes so that they can roll the Alpaca bean down into the hole where the female takes over. She puts the bean in a burrowed out cavern and lays her egg. When the egg hatches the larvae eats half of the bean to survive and then when he is old enough he leaves the cavern and the remainder of the bean is left to fertilize the ground. There are many types of Dung beetles and the scarabs we have adopted are known as traveling beetles.

Basically what I have is an ecosystem that cleans up the communal dung pile and fertilizes the surrounding ground. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing".

Here is a good link to the Dung Beetle:

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