After sad goodbyes, I’m back from Costa Rica and missing the beetles and all my new beetle friends. More on that later- first on to dung beetles!
In addition to our group project, we did individual projects as well. My project was on my favorite group of beetles (Tiger beetles are a close second)- Dung beetles! I have loved dung beetles ever since my semester abroad in Ecuador as an undergraduate. On that trip, we spent a month in the Amazon (I know, amazing!) conducting various research projects and learning about tropical rainforest ecology. We were at Tiputini Biological Station in the Yasuni region of Ecudaor. Lucky for me, there was a dung beetle researcher on the station while I was there! I was able to work with him to learn how to trap and identify dung beetles. My group and I used, ah, dung samples (yes, our own poop!) and created traps that we strung from a canopy tower up to 50 meters. We caught all kinds of dung beetles- and different species at different levels of the canopy!
Using that incredible experience, I trapped dung beetles for my individual project as part of this class. Specifically, I’m comparing what beetles come to human versus animal poop and in secondary (previously logged but now regrowing) forest versus primary or old-growth forest. It is a little gross using your own poo, but not the end of the world. You just gotta use gloves and not breathe in too heavily! I am also using animal dung that I collected along trails. There were some Howler monkeys on the bridge pooping all over, so I scooped that up. Then, a couple of my fellow students found some peccary poop for me. Perfect! I bated traps by hanging the poo over a pit-fall (tub of soapy water buried in the ground) and collected the trapped beetles first thing in the morning and at dusk.
Since it was a small project, I have limited data but nearly all (92%) of the dung beetles I caught were in primary forest, most in the day, and the unique species were caught with the animal poop as oppose to human- probably because the beetles recognize the animal poo as a resource. (OR, as my friends joked, it is because I am a vegetarian!). Here are a couple more cool dung beetle pics from my project ( in addition to the one above).