It’s always worth keeping one eye on the ground when out and about as you never know what you might be missing right beneath your feet. A perfect demonstration of this occurred on Sunday whilst on the Woodchat Shrike hunt described in my last post. Just after watching the Blackcaps flitting around the old Rhossili Rectory we spotted a black beetle walking along the footpath and stopped to investigate.
Initially I thought that this might be another Bloody-Nosed Beetle but we soon noticed that this one was definitely not flightless and also had the addition of three impressive ‘horns’ behind the head. A bit of internet research quickly delivered the correct identification as a male Minotaur Beetle, or Typhaeus typhoeus if you are feeling fancy. The Minotaur Beetle can grow up to 2.5cm in length and is the UK’s largest dung beetle species. Although the males may look impressive they are actually smaller than the females who lack the males adornments. Their typical habitat is sandy grassland or heathland where they feed on any dung but seem to prefer that produced by Rabbits. I’m sure there is a sound scientific reason for this preference but I can’t help thinking that if I was in their position I’d be more inclined to roll small Rabbit droppings around as well rather than sections of cow-pat for instance. They breed and shelter in tunnels that can run up to 50cm deep and from which several side chambers branch off. Each of these chambers is used to hold a single egg, whilst nearby a store of dung is built up on which the larva can feed when they first hatch. Unusually there is absolutely no parental care for the offspring.
When looking for distribution maps I wasn’t surprised to find out that although widespread across England and Wales, the Minotaur Beetle is scarce. Rhossili seems to be a favoured spot for them however with sightings dating back to May 2005 and more recently in October 2010. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye out if you are in the area.
After my encounter though I’m still not sure who was more interested in who. Any suggestions?