Splendid Dung Beetle:
A Fortunate Catch

By William T. Hathaway

Splendid Dung Beetle (Phanaeus vindex)

The Splendid Dung Beetle (Phanaeus vindex) is an American scarab beetle that is highly prized in an entomologist's collection. It seems contradictory that the beetle's name should include a reference to an excrementitious deposit. We are familiar with the “June bugs” that spend their larval stage, feeding on roots of grass and other plants; in this immature stage they are known as “white grubs.” However, few of us have had the pleasure of digging deeply beneath a “cow chip” in order to add an insect nonpareil to our collection. This splendid scarab is occasionally on-the-wing — but rarely captured.

Approximately 20 years ago I was driving along with my “air scoop” side window open on the driver's side; suddenly, a large insect crashed against the open glass and bounced into my lap. My anxious thoughts were focused on not being stung by a bumblebee. Momentarily I saw a bright red creature crawling off my lap. Eureka, my collecting instinct took over and the creature was cupped in my left hand, while I was driving with my right hand. This fortunate chance of events rewarded me with my only male specimen of the Splendid Dung Beetle.

Any authoritative book on insects relates how this marvelous species survives in cattle pastures.

“Scarabs am great people.” Egyptians worshiped a scarab symbol, and Edgar Allen Poe evermore had his “gold bug.”

(Also see this photograph in larger format.)