An apology and more than you may have ever wanted to know about Dung Beetles!
Recently our cows managed to get into the burial ground without our realising. They had broken through a fence and they stayed overnight there. As soon as we could we went in and assessed the damage and then I spent a happy morning in the sun removing all the cowpats from sensitive areas like around graves and the memorial circle and inconvenient ones like the paths. I left the others to rot down naturally. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused if you came before we got there. I am afraid the cows were also quite keen on the some of the flowers left on the graves. They also very much liked the Roundhouse. Nice bit of shelter I suppose. But all is back to rights just leaving a few traces to dry out in the sun or be dealt with by insects. This has never happened before in all our years of being open and hopefully it will not happen again.
What was fascinating was the amount of lively insect life to be found enjoying the cowpats including dung beetles although I am not expert enough to say which variety. These are declining in this country due to many cattle being kept inside, overuse of pesticides and wormers and changes in breeds being kept by farmers and people clearing away all dung (so I felt justified in leaving the ones I did!). They also help reduce flies so help improve cattle health. If you want to know more follow this link https://dungbeetlemap.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/dump-uk-dungbeetle-general.pdf.
I remember that when I was reading Wilding by Isabella Tree she talked about her husband Charlie waiting by cowpats and timing how long it took a dung beetle to arrive. Not very long it turned out! There were many other creatures in there too which I could not identify - testament to the healthiness of the environment and of course they all provide food for badgers and others living around and about. I left one by the last avenue tree on the left because I am always amazed at how quickly they disappear. It turns out some dung beetles tunnel away poo into the ground helping to aerate the soil, some live in it throughout their whole life cycle. The rollers do not live in this country. They take it away in small pieces rolling it along the ground. Of course, this hot sun also dries it out very efficiently.
Co-incidentally, I was talking to a friends and family member recently about the idea of asking someone to come and talk to us about the insect life at Westmill. We have never explored this. I wonder how many of you think this would be a good idea even if we had to charge a small feel to cover the expert’s costs.