John digs his bee­tles

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION - By Rod­ney Woods

‘‘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.

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