Al Batt: Are there really such things as dung beetles? What are earwigs?

Published 9:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2016

The earwig bug gets its name from the mistaken belief that the insect purposefully crawls into people’s ears. - Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

The earwig bug gets its name from the mistaken belief that the insect purposefully crawls into people’s ears. – Al Batt/Albert Lea Tribune

Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

Email newsletter signup

“Everything is nearly copacetic. My goal for the day is to not hit a deer with my car unless the critter is in my garden. I’ve finally figured out that everyone is just pretending to know what they are doing. Most of us don’t even know what we’re not doing. I wonder what the record is for driving a vehicle with its check engine light on for the most miles? I should put duct tape on it, but it’s a comforting night-light. I might be in contention for that lofty perch of the most miles. I’ve been getting some good healthy exercise. I buy groceries and don’t use a bag. That means lots of trips from store to car and from car to house. It’s speed and dexterity training trying to schlep a bunch of canned foods here and there. I helped Still Bill build a fence around his north pasture. I’d rather do that than play cards with Still Bill. I have to do all the shuffling. He’s so lazy that he goes outside to let the wind blow his nose. Still Bill is like lightning with a hammer. He never strikes twice in the same place.”


Birds are delightful to the ear and stunning to the eye. Even the bad singers are good and the plain birds beautiful.

I watched as Rick Mammel of Albert Lea cranked down a pole holding the hanging plastic gourds that mimic natural ones. The gourds, owned by the Albert Lea Audubon Society, appeal to purple martins and result in nesting success. I watched the martins fly about. They were out of their gourds.

I spotted bald eagles and trumpeter swans. I saw eaglets and cygnets. My amazement is constant. It’s still hard to believe they are so abundant and that both have nested not far from my abode for years.

A robin fed on both suet and grape jelly feeders. Robins are becoming more comfortable at feeders.

I watched a rabbit eat milkweed I’d planted. I’ve read that rabbits don’t like milkweed. The rabbits in my yard didn’t get the memo. They chow down on the young leaves as if they were paying for them. I hadn’t noticed rabbits eating milkweed until I started planting the monarch butterfly caterpillar chow.


“What are earwigs?” The European earwig was introduced into this country from Europe in the early 1900s and is now common throughout much of the country. It gets its name from the mistaken belief that earwigs climb into the ears of sleeping people and burrow into their brains to lay eggs. The earwig is about 5/8-inch long and dark brown with a reddish head and pale yellowish-brown legs. It possesses a pair of pincers on the end of its abdomen. Males have curved, caliper-like pincers while females possess straight pincers that are closer together. Earwigs use these for defense and in courtship, not to harm people. Earwigs are usually found in damp areas, such as under boards, firewood, leaves, logs, mulch and stones or in rotted wood. They feed on moist, decaying plant material. Earwigs occasionally attack living plants, but are minor pests. They can feed on dead insects and foodstuffs.

“Are there really such things as dung beetles?” There are. Dung beetles feed on dung. Some dung beetles roll dung into round balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers. Other dung beetles bury dung wherever they find it. The beetles lay eggs in the dung, where their larvae hatch and grow. Dung beetles are beneficial. They bury flies, parasites and other livestock pests in the manure.

Gail Rayman of Glenville asked if rabbits could swim. Eastern cottontails don’t take to water readily, but they can swim when necessary.

“You wrote that rooster pheasants are better at surviving winter than hens. Why is that?” Hens are smaller than roosters and lose body heat faster. Hens carry less fat, so are unable to survive as long as roosters during a blizzard. Hens can’t dig for food through ice and snow as easily as roosters or defend food from aggressive roosters. For those reasons, more hens then roosters die each winter.

Judy Karsjens of Clarks Grove asked how old ring-necked pheasants are when they are able to fly. At one week of age, young pheasants begin to grow flight feathers and at 2 weeks they can fly short distances. By 3 weeks of age, they are capable of flights of up to 150 feet. They don’t leave their mother for about 10 weeks. In 1881, 21 Chinese ring-necked pheasants were released in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. A host of introductions of several varieties of pheasants followed throughout the United States and Canada wherever there was a chance of survival. By the early 1900s, ring-necked pheasants were established throughout many midwestern and northern states as well as in southern Canada’s prairies.

“What do woolly bear caterpillars become?” The woolly bear is the caterpillar of a tiger moth called the Isabella tiger moth, a pinkish-orange, medium-sized moth. The caterpillar is typically black on both ends with a broad brown band in the middle. Folklore says that the broader the black bands are, the harsher the winter. The truth is that the caterpillars, lacking meteorology degrees, have no ability to predict the upcoming winter.

Thanks for stopping by

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”  — Baba Dioum

“He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has.” — Epictetus

Do good.


Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at