Delights of Dung and Dung beetle Keys

Although not the most pleasant medium to work with this can be very rewarding for the coleopterist. Within a short time of being deposited, especially if the temperature is high, most types of dung will attract lots of beetles. Probably the easiest way to observe specimens is simply to break the surface of the sample so that the aromas are released and wait for them to fly in; sweeping the many insects that will soon swarm around the dung will provide a range of species.

Using a stick to overturn a sample may reveal more specimens or it may reveal the presence of Geotrupes (etc.) burrows and at first this method seems to be a good way to obtain specimens but this will almost always overlook the vast majority of the beetles present. To fully appreciate what specimens are present other methods must be used and these will depend on how fresh or wet the sample is. Once a samply begins to dry out it can be seived over a white tray, this is better than a sheet because the sides will help retain the very active staphs, and pulled apart so that the resulting specimens fall through. Similarly a reasonably dry sample can be placed directly in a tray, pulled apart and the specimens pootered. Here you need to be quick as many staphs will fly as soon as they leave the sample, and it is almost certain that as you are pootering a few staphs you will observe Cercyon leisurely unfolding their wings and taking flight from the top of the sample. You will also need a good supply of tubes for the pooter as it is never a good idea to keep the larger staphs with other specimens. Sieving and breaking down samples in trays will provide lots of specimens without too much trouble from reasonably dry or firm samples but this will be of little use with frest ruminant dung which is almost liquid in consistency.