Dung beetles? Unloved? Oh, what deskboundness wreaks! Discounting history, what type of modern human, having met, truly met a dung beetle, cannot be awed, held in thrall, cannot see the beauty of the beast (like all beetles, the many dung beetles are spectacular) let alone its helpfulness? Finding an email to a friend, I come upon my own words, "How can one feel down when the world has dungbeetles so close that they are visiting the balcony now?"
There was one special night when they came in their many thousands and mated in front of us, the body of them moving against the balcony window like a sleeping five-year-old boy. Here in Australia, they are a rare case of beneficial animal importation, and the nights are often filled with their buzzing. Put your head down to a fresh cowpat and you can hear the crackle and pop as they move about. The native antechinuses adore them, and in the sheltered hideaways where they prefer to eat their prey, you'll find a boneyard of beetle shells (many of them dung beetles) like a pile of armour whose knights have been eaten right out of it.
Ode to a dung beetle
I wanted to write an ode to a dung beetle
but everyone would think it silly
So I wrote an ode to a swan floating like
its neighbour swans. Watched from the shore
they look like so many discarded tissues.
Why look, though, when we know all the
allusions, princesses et al.
The dung beetle tunnels lonesome
lacking resonance of swans
but with a necklace of
golden servants cleaning
its russet fur, and a smell
of musk that queens would
kill dragons for with their own
Take that, you princesses!
Take that, you swans!
Ring the bells of resonance
for the clangers they are.
Clean on, golden servant-mites.
Trundle your dung-ball to your
secret den, dung beetle unsung.
This poem shall be for you:
Oh Odious One.
Now, to one of my favourite books:
Insect Lives: Stories of Mystery and Romance from a Hidden World, edited by Erich Hoyt and Ted Schultz. Here it is, with a portrait of the unloved on the cover.
So, advice to the deskbound: unbind and see other worlds.