Friday, June 22, 2012

TNC is going Underground in the Outback

     Lance Hedges, Conservation Director of The Nature Conservancy of Kansas, expresses a happy face in a cave in the Red Hills of South-central Kansas.  Most of the caves of Kansas are located in the gypsum formations of Barber and Comanche counties.  The uniqueness of these features and the wildlife they harbor add to the importance of the area to the conservancy as well as the ranchers of the Red Hills.  In a recent trip, several TNC members along with local landowners experienced the thrill of going underground.    This is a special privilege as nearly all the caves in Kansas are on private land and have been kept in relatively good and safe condition because of being protected from having too much human use.  
     Among the half dozen or so bat species which frequent the Red Hills cave areas the Pallid Bat I'm holding is among the most fascinating.  It has a particularly interesting feeding habit of alighting on the ground at night to chase down scorpions, centipedes and ground beetles.  Occasionally using a cave or two, these light colored bats prefer to squeeze into cracks in canyon walls.  There are 17 known species of bats in Kansas and several are known only from the Red Hills region.  Bats are important indicators of a healthy environment and are nature's natural insect control agents.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tumble Bug

video



Tumble Bug Boogie
(Sung to “Old Time Rock and Roll”)

Just give me poo that I can shape and roll
Fresh manure that really sooths the soul
The kind that I can put into a hole
Just give me poo that I can shape and roll;

Don’t try to steal it, you’ll be sad to know
I’ll fight you for it, better let it go
My mate is helping me with the load
Just give me poo that I can shape and roll;

I’m takin it too a really special place
A few inches down, a darkened space
A male and female coordinate rolling of the ball.
Where our young will have that special taste
Of their first meal a sphere of bovine waste;

Call me a tumble bug or what you will
Say I’m disgusting say my stink could kill
There’s only one thing I desire to fill
And that’s a hole with this poo ball I built.

Just give me poo that I can shape and roll
Fresh manure that really sooths the soul
The kind that I can put into a hole
Just give me poo that I can shape and roll.



     Ok, that was taking a little liberty with a Bob Seeger tune but these little guys are truly fascinating.  Sure, they roll balls of manure around but that's just their gig.  That's how they live.  These dung beetles are in a family called Scarab Beetles.  Their scientific name is Canthon pilularius.  They relatively quickly find fresh dung (mostly cow dung in Kansas) and carve out a circular portion.  Then they fashion it into a sphere which they will roll off for a distance of several feet and bury it for food.  If they are a mated pair, the female helps, laying eggs with the buried ball.  The eggs hatch and, walla, a free ball of fresh food is right there for the hatchlings.  Yummy.  In pastures, you can find abandoned balls of dried cow dunk resulting from abandonment by a frustrated male or for some other unknown reason.  Look more closely for activity and you might be able to enjoy several minutes of dung beetle watching--it will be a natural show you will find very entertaining!