Ben is taking a well-deserved vacation this week ...

Ben is taking a well-deserved vacation this week ...

Ben is taking a well-deserved vacation this week, so we're reaching into the archives for today's #BenInNature update presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust! The following post was originally published on July 31, 2020.

Sometimes I have to go out in search of critters to feature in these daily updates; at other times, the critters fly right into me with the force of an Airsoft pellet while I'm sitting on my back porch!

This is Dichotomius carolinus, and it's the largest and heaviest dung beetle in the eastern US! When we think of dung beetles (and I guess some of us do more than others) we usually think of the large dung beetles of Africa that roll up little balls of dung and push them around. However, not all dung beetles are "rollers." Some are "tunnelers," like this lady here (you can tell it's a female because the males have a little horn on their heads).

These beetles are usually found near horse and cow dung; they dig tunnels next to a cowpie, for example, and then bury and eat the dung. I realize that's pretty gross, but it's an extremely useful service! Dung beetles play an important role in improving nutrient recycling and soil conditions.

I have a neighbor who keeps cattle, and if I had to guess, this beetle probably flew over from his place. Speaking of flying, I managed to catch a photo of this beetle at the exact moment it was about to take flight from my hand. You can get a good look at the elytra, which is the hard shell that covers the flight wings of beetles, along with the flight wings themselves.

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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