The minotaur beetle – a down-to-earth devourer of dung

The minotaur beetle – a down-to-earth devourer of dung

If you’re a what-have-they-ever-done-for-us? kind of voter, you may be received over by the minotaur beetle. It’s as spectacular as any beetle, the shiny black male sporting three bullish horns on their thorax. However the minotaur can be certainly one of that nice hidden military of invertebrates who maintain our planet functioning – clear and fertile – with out us even understanding.

The minotaur is a dung beetle and roams throughout grassland and heathland at night time devouring mammalian droppings.

There are greater than 5,000 species of dung beetles internationally and they’re a vital “keystone” species as a result of they bury dung within the floor to feed their younger – cleansing up, recycling vitamins, fertilising the soil and serving to to disperse seeds. One research estimates the worth of dung beetles clearing British pastures and fertilising soils to be £367m a 12 months.

Sadly, the dung beetle inhabitants all over the world has plummeted for the reason that intensification of agriculture. Livestock are given a lot anti-worm and anti-parasite therapy that these are excreted in dung, making a poisonous soup that’s deadly for dung beetles and plenty of different dung-feeding invertebrates. In France, conservationists have begun reintroducing dung beetles to spice up rewilding initiatives.

The minotaur beetle is scarce in Britain and very uncommon farther north. It grows to solely 2cm however the male packs a punch with its quick central horn and two lengthy ones both aspect. These fearsome instruments are deployed to defend burrows and intimidate or spar with different males earlier than mating. The feminine, as soon as paired, lays about 20 eggs on the finish of a labyrinth of tunnels as much as 1.5 metres under floor.

Minotaur beetle illustration

Quite sweetly, the minotaur couple then work collectively to provision their younger with dung meals. The male principally labours above floor, gathering dung pellets, dragging them backwards and inserting them into the burrow. The feminine then shapes them into lengthy tubes, which fill the brood chambers. Different dung beetle species additionally work collectively to roll balls of dung to their nests, unusually cooperating regardless of not understanding their closing vacation spot – so quite like human life, then.

Every minotaur larva is left with sufficient meals to develop quickly, whereas the exhausted dad and mom die in midsummer. The brand new era emerge within the autumn, normally after a spell of rain, and their virtuous cycle continues.

So should you’re drawn to aggressive-looking alpha males who truly embrace equality of the sexes and arduous work, and a species the place each women and men are sensible, down-to-earth and constant, vote now – vote minotaur!

  • Welcome to the Guardian’s UK invertebrate of the 12 months competitors. Daily between 2 April and 12 April we’ll be profiling one of many unimaginable invertebrates that reside in and across the UK. Tell us which invertebrates you assume we ought to be together with right here. And at midnight on Friday 12 April, voting will open to resolve which is our favorite invertebrate – for now – with the winner to be introduced on Monday 15 April.

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