Friday 2 September 2011


Over the Bank Holiday weekend, Our Lass and I spent some time in the border lands of England and Wales. Whilst the weather was a bit temperamental, we were just happy to explore an area we'd not previously visited.

One particular morning, we drove up the valley of the Afon Honddu onto the plateau between the hills of Hay Bluff and er... Lord Hereford's Knob, to enjoy the views and blow the cobwebs away. Armed with her trusty walking poles, Our Lass made steady progress, as we pottered about the shallow slopes on the north side of the Bluff. Something wasn't quite right though, and eventually we realised what it was.

No heather.

Not being of a particularly geological bent, I hadn't appreciated that above the tree line on these hills, the red soil supports mainly bracken and grass, which gives a lusher feel to the place. Later, checking the British Geological Survey map for the area, I discovered that the underlying rock is Lower Old Red Sandstone from the Devonian, though whether that explains the absence of Erica I don't know.

A multitude of sheep and several wild ponies were grazing the sward, resulting in the paths and tracks being liberally coated with copious amounts of poo. Taking advantage of this resource, were many dung beetles, all industriously shovelling shit as if their genes depended on it. Which, of course, they do.

I don't know much more about beetles than I do about geology, but I'm guessing that this is a Dor Beetle, Geotrupes stercorarius. It would appear that dung beetles are either rollers, tunnellers or dwellers, as this link to the Beeb Nature website proclaims. As lifestyle options, they aren't a great set of choices, but I suppose we should be rightly thankful that these creatures take on the job of recycling faeces or we'd be knee deep in it.

At the coal face, Dor Beetle style
Presumably this is the end result?
As if they didn't have a tough enough gig, what with all the merde munching, I spotted one beetle struggling for forward momentum. Puzzled as to why this should be, I looked a bit closer and realised that another species of beetle had seized one of its rear legs and was attempting to pull it underground.

A deadly game of tug-of-war ensued...

Until, finally, our hero made good its escape, leaving the predator to search for another victim.

Whatever it was (and my best guess from my ID book would be a member of the genus Pterostichus), it was missing a wing casing on its right hand side. So not having a good day at all then?

If I've whetted your appetite for dung beetle info, try this excellent article by the Grumpy Ecologist.

After all that exshitement, we drove down into the Wye valley to visit the town of Hay-on-Wye, with its wall to wall bookshops and the occasional tea room. What's not to like!

I was heartened to discover that despite the preponderance of literary retail possibilities, there was still a public library in the town. On reflection though, I probably should've purchased a book on beetle identification.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it's a pity you did not managed to come across the local parish magazine - Way on High. you might have found it interesting.