Fascinating World of Dung beetles in Jammu & Kashmir || LIVE IMAGE

Our planet presents fathomless fascinating environs due to the bewitching biodiversity, it holds in its lap. The more one peeks into this vast expanse of nature, whether far & wide, or deep &; up in the sky, an amazing scenario emerges and unheard flora and fauna crop up, out of blue, through research, inquest or per chance, holding the viewer in awe. This writer is of the firm belief that biodiversity is still in the process of a continuous evolution, a belief arrived at after several decades in pursuit of environmental protection related issues. That is how, most the time, new species of flora and fauna, previously never heard before or noticed, are added to this vast biodiversity. A few lines, which deserve mention here, are quite apt & relevant that the ecological cycle is truly amazing! All the species depend on one another. There is not a single species which is futile or insignificant. Each of them forms an integral part of the ecology, however miniscule! They are all interdependent, forming a closely linked chain. The survival of one is dependent on another and hence, everything needs to be in place”. This is true of human life as well. We are all interdependent on each Other. No one is inferior or worthless. All of us live in a close network. Also, the tiny things in life are equally important, just as the big ones. Attention to detail is an important aspect of Nature. And yet human beings, among all living, lose sight of it for its own deluge Swami Sivananda (Rishikesh) often advises his followers, Learn the lessons from nature; Even the silence in nature or the small sounds made by birds or animals – if we tune ourselves – can be quite inspiring. .” And yet human among all living lose sight of it for its own deluge.

A few months back, Parimoo brothers were together in a unison after a long time at Jammu this winter. Over the evening tea it had been a routine to rewind the memories which most of the times delayed the dinner. Because there has been inexhaustible stock to pour on accumulates over the decades of experiences and encounters to share and interact. It has been a mixture of the sweet, sour, terrifying encounters, hardships and above all the fascination it gives when one comes through unscathed with a close shave of the razors edge that came in the way on the journey of life. In one such sitting Eldest brother narrated a fascination view of the Dung Beetle at Khelani, Doda, and way back in 1954. He was on trek his to valley via Simthan Pass, those days semblance of vehicular road from Batote up to Khelani was laid as a fairwater road. And on wards road was being constructed. He at Khelani intended to rest for some time before proceeding onwards. Resting on a stone his eyes attracted a few dung pats littered here and there around, a normal phenomenon, nothing special in rural life. But what attracted his attention on them was the Beetles  in number  rolling, barrowing and pushing pieces out of it far larger than their size. He was glued to it for a couple of hours to study its behaviour and enjoy the natures mesmerizing mysteries.
 
Beetles belonging to the Scarabaeidae family there are about5000 species in the subfamily Sacarabaeinae .Are specialised to feed and breed on an ephemeral and discrete food resources, consisting mainly of the piles of dung produced by herbivorous warm blooded animals. Said to be the world’s strongest insect but also the strongest animal on the planet compared to body weight. Has a capacity to pull 1,141 times their own body weight. This is the equivalent of an average person   pulling six double-decker buses full of people.. The humble dung beetle is the first insect known to navigate by the stars. Like sailors of old and Saharan nomads, it can orientate itself by watching the sky. Dung beetles are  of medium to a large size have dark, round bodies, six legs and long flying wings folded under hard, protective covers.  Has a size .5 inches to 2.5 inches  depending about the species has a life span of up to 3 years , number of eggs laid three to twenty , life cycle from egg to adult emergence takes i month to 3 years or more depending upon the species.

Some male dung beetles have strong horns on their heads, too possess a very impressive ‘Weapon “some with a large, hornlike structure on the head or thorax that males use for fighting. They have spours on their back legs that help them troll the dung balls, and their strong front legs are good for fighting as well as digging.  Most of Dung Beetles are strong fliers  with long flight wings folded under  hardened outer wings   (elytra ) and can travel several miles in search  of the perfect patch with  specialised antennae , they can catch a whiff of dung from  the air. In early part of the summer the dug beetle buries itself creates a irregular ball shape ball and feed on it. A dung beetle can bury dung 250 times heavier than itself in one night. In some species it has been found the ball of manure can be as large as an apple. The Indian Scarabs Heliocopris and certain Catharsisus species make very large manure balls and cover them with a layer of clay, which becomes so hard when dry that the balls were once thought to be old stones cannonballs. Egyptian cosmology includes the scarab beetle rolling its ball of dung with the ball representing the Earth and beetle the Sun. 

Tunnelers dive into a cow pile and tunnel straight down to set up the family home. Sorting the dung underground keeps it fresh and protects the developing grubbing   from the predators and parasite. The female sorts through the dung and arranges it throughout the tunnel. The job of the male is to bring home doo-doo. One or both of the parents stay with the larvae until they mature, which can take up to four months. It is said this level of parental care is unusual in the insect world.Dwellers are said to be on top of their world because confine themselves on the dung heap. The female lays her eggs on the top of manure piles, and the entire development from egg to adult takes place inside the dung.   Dwellers are smaller and they seem to like cow patties best for raising a family.

Dung beetles don’t just bring ecological balance and economic advantage; they demonstrate some of the most remarkable behaviours in the insect kingdom, including mating and nesting instincts usually only seen in birds and mammals. , the rich biodiversity of the dung beetles are to be conserved and protected to maintain the ecological balance. Dung beetles are important decomposers, involved in nutrient recycling, seed dispersal and the control of vertebrate parasites (dung breeding dipteran pests) and are therefore an important component of tropical forest systems (Hanski & Krikken 1991.As per verified reports of 4,000 dung beetles arriving at a pint-sized sample of elephant dung within 15 minutes, and 16,000 beetles spiriting away three pounds of the dung in under two hours..The Fauna of British India on Scarabaeid beetles was published in three volumes by Arrow (1910, 1917 and 1931) describing 1,300 species from British India. The average  domestic cow  drops 10 to 12  dung pats per day and each pat can produce  up to 3,000 flies within two weeks, dung beetle as found bury about 80% of cattle dung. In case it is argued dung beetles do not clean it, the manure shall harden, plants would die and the meadows would be barren, smelly landscape filled with flies.  An Entomologist from Hungry Gyorgy (‘George’) Bornemissza noticed that the Australian meadows were disfigured with un-decaying cow pats in contrast to the well-maintained fields he had grown up with back in Europe. He suggested importing Eurasian and African dung beetles more adapted to the higher water content of cow and horse dung. Between 1968 and 1984, 1.73 million dung beetles of 43 different species were released into thousands of Australian meadowlands. Now the grasslands are gradually being brought back into useful grazing production. Droppings are being removed, bush flies are declining, cow intestinal worm rates are being reduced, and milk and beef quantity and quality are measurably improved. Dung beetles have almost been wiped out due to neglect, pesticides above all hardly any one realising to its importance and need to protect and preserve it.

 By- Bushan Parimoo
(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist and a regular contributor to this Website .)
(Feedback at: blparimoo@gmail.com)
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