I never thought I’d find dung beetles exciting, but here we are. This gorgeous lady is a female rainbow scarab beetle, Phanaeus vindex, almost an inch long and with the cutest little bright yellow antennae! The ancient Egyptians worshiped scarab beetles. Looking at these colors, I can see why!
Like all dung beetles, she looks for dung for her larvae to eat as they grow, so this beautiful beetle is most often found in very soft and stinky locations. Dung beetles can either live in the dung, tunnel under the dung, or roll the dung to a new location — rainbow scarabs are tunnelers, so she builds a tunnel under her favorite patty and builds a brood ball, made of dung, inside it. Then she lays an egg on the ball. Once the tunnel is full of dung balls and eggs, she fills in the tunnel.
Notably, she also has some little friends with her — she has a collection of predatory mites of the species Macrocheles amygdaligera hanging out behind her head. They aren’t parasitic, they’re just along for the ride! When the scarab beetle finds some dung, the mites will hop off and feed on various other insect larvae who are also feasting on the dung. This reduces competition for the rainbow scarab larvae. Win-win!
This is a female; the males have a single large horn (the size varies depending on the beetle).