All in all it’s a good life really, because dung beetles exist

Some folk thought my last blog was rather miserable – though I thought, the conversation with the stones was very cheering – so am going to attempt something happier, for life is good really.

Having said that I’m about to start with something that will appear damn miserable, but hold on there, it will seem better soon.

My epileptic seizures have got to such a point that it is becoming difficult to do my job as a botanical teacher. The good side of this is that it is forcing me to take my freelance work more seriously. I’ve always really wanted to be an illustrator working from home and now life, probably fed up with my lack self believe, is forcing me into a corner where I have to do it.

I have a couple of commissions to start with, an animation commission about genomes and pea plants, and a t-shirt commission for a trans-sexual mermaid, which I like the idea of.

Just got to finish a mural I started last year of two large trees. David, who asked me to do it, feeds me well, so can’t complain at that. When I was at his earlier this week I kept hallucinating insects. I do this a lot anyway, but this was interesting as it seemed to fit with the tree paintings, all the shadows in his flat kept turning into insects. It was very like a dark fairy tale and at some point I must attempt to sketch it down.

Insects are great. A lot of them bother me, of course, like the fruit flies in my kitchen or the bluebottles hovering round the lounge light. However this doesn’t mean I want them all dead and when I think of the benefits insects have to us. The whole plant pollination thing is amazing, like a beautiful love affair between flower and bugs that is largely ignored in botanical illustration even though it is a symbiotic and essential relationship. A lot of our food just doesn’t happen without it.

Then there is the stag beetle, the cockroach and the dung beetle. These are great at recycling waste, allowing for the cycle of life to continue. The Egyptians saw the scarab beetle as a god rolling the sun round the earth, a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, and I can see their point there. Dung beetles are fascinating. There are many species and the love life of one type of dung beetle is most intriguing for there is a female dung beetle, a male dung beetle and a trans-gender dung beetle.

First of all the female dung beetle picks herself a big strong male with large horns to build her nest with, under a pile of dung. Then, once the nest is built and whilst the male is out defending his territory, battling against other males, the transgender dung beetle pays a visit to the nest. Now this dung beetle looks like a female but it’s sexual organs are male. The female dung beetle takes a shine to this new female looking friend and whilst the male is outside defending the nest with his life, the two female looking dung beetle make beautiful love inside the nest. Turns out that the smaller effeminate males has far bigger testicles than the stronger battling male, so his chance of fathering the offspring of the female are greater.

I told this story to a friend of mine the other day and he posed the question of how the offspring of the female and transexual dung beetle look. Does it become obvious what the female has been up to?

This I don’t know, and the divorce rate in dung beetles has not yet been monitored, but one thing I’m very pleased about is that they exist.

Now must get on with that animation.

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