John digs his beetles
‘‘The beetles are tenacious diggers and can bury dung into gravel roads that semi-trailers have been over in northern Australia,’’ dung beetle expert John Feehan said at the Echuca Beef Group’s meeting on August 15.
And he went on to explain just how good a digger a dung beetle is by telling the group how he would ‘‘select a robust, 22-yearold farmer’s son’’, who is at the bar drinking a schooner of beer, to conduct an experiment.
John, with his 22 years of experience in dung beetle research, carefully chooses five healthy young female beetles (because females do the digging, not the males).
He challenges the ‘farmer’s son’ to see if he can hold these five beetles in his hand.
Knowing full well that the ‘farmer’s son’ will not be able to hold them, John states that the loser of the challenge will buy the winner drinks for the rest of the night.
The young farmer readily takes on the challenge in front of of his friends.
After he shuts his fist, he smiles thinking the challenge is going to be a piece of cake.
After four or five seconds, John says that the smile declines. After a few more seconds, John points out that the beetles ‘‘have entered the skin and now are crawling around the bones in his fingers’’.
John says it is a hideous feeling to have beetles try and escape from your hand.
On hearing this, John says the test subject ‘‘opens up his fist and loses the bet’’.
And to this day, John has never had to buy a brash ‘farmer’s son’ a beer.
A few of my favourite things . . . Long-time dung beetle expert John Feehan shows off the different species of dung beetles.