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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dung Beetles

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures, drawing groans and snickers at even the thought of their name and what they enjoy harvesting. Fourth graders eagerly anticipated hearing my favorite chapter of Ted Lewin's book Tooth and Claw: Animal Adventures in the Wild. Entitled "Downwind of a Dung Beetle," it is the author's account of hours spent on his belly in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana. As he crawled behind an intrepid dung beetle (who was pushing its beloved dung ball), he could hear the scraping of its legs and imagined how the tall grasses looked like a forest. In his author's note, Mr. Lewin provides the incredible facts about dung beetles, all of which made the fourth graders gasp...and understand why I like that piece so much. For example, on an acre of land, they clear 1,000 pounds of dung a year!

At the Red Balloon yesterday afternoon, noted Travel Channel host and chef Andrew Zimmern and his assistant and co-author Molly Mogren also read and talked about dung beetles, much to the delight of the many children in attendance. Their focus, however, was on eating the creatures, not observing them. A good water buffalo dung specimen, for example, could have up to ten dung beetles in it. Once caught, they are immersed in a bucket of water. Not because the consumer wants them clean...because their wings get saturated, prohibiting them from departing the scene. The audience members were then allowed to ask questions of the famous chef, and all had to do with his eating experiences! Andrew and Molly collaborated on the book Andrew Zimmern's Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Foods.


  1. The authors at the Red Balloon must have highly entertained the students, who revel is this kind of "yucky, icky" stuff. Imagine what one can learn by reading children's books!!

  2. ummm, i don't think i'll be featuring this at my next dinner party.