Barstow’s Longview Farm recently received an email from an entomologist looking to traipse around the cow pasture in search of a rare beetle. “Sure!” we replied back. So he scheduled a time to visit, and ordered four pies from Barstow’s Dairy Store and Bakery for pick up that same day.
The subject of the visit? The Rainbow Scarab Beetle.
The colorful, metallic females inspired the common name for the beetle with red, gold, and green coloring. The males are completely black or shades of dark blue but compensate for a less showy color by sporting a curved horn that grows out of the head like a rhinoceros.
The entomologist who came to visit had good luck! He collected two males and one female from cow pies in the pasture.
Rainbow Scarab Beetles are good contributors to healthy soil.
They dig a tunnel and chamber in the soil under a pile of dung and roll the poo into feeding balls for hatching larvae. Eggs, along with balls of dung for food, are laid in the chamber. Offspring grow underground and feed on the dung balls as they develop. Adults also eat animal dung.
This unique diet is a critical part of recycling nutrients in an ecosystem.
The Rainbow Scarab Beetle is a natural composter, bringing nutrients from our cow pies into the soil and reducing nutrient run off. The benefits of the beetle’s existence are well-known in conservation because they help reduce damage created by large quantities of dung left behind by ruminants.
Growing up to this particular cow pasture my entire life, I’ve certainly seen these critters before. But I had no idea how important they were until this cow pie flipping afternoon! I love that there’s always so much to learn right here on the farm. And I’m grateful for the important work these beetles are doing for our soil. Thanks to the entomologist who taught me about this interesting beetle – and to the Insect Identifier website for helping me bring this information to the Barstow Blog!