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The Dung Beetles of Nara Park

When you imagine Nara, you probably think of Deer and Todai-ji Temple.


It is well known that humans and deer live together in harmony in our city, but most never consider how the nearly 1 ton a day of deer droppings is disposed of. 


Can you imagine how? Could it be by volunteers, the prefectural government, or a company contracted to clean up all the droppings? All of these would be fine guesses, but the truth of the matter is that Dung Beetles do all the heavy lifting!


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This unassuming yet vital inhabitant plays a crucial role in maintaining the park's cleanliness and ecological balance. The dung beetles of Nara have coexisted with the deer for centuries. These little beetles eat massive amounts of deer droppings and break them down into tiny pieces creating a natural fertilizer which helps the grass of Nara to grow healthily - becoming nutritious food for the deer, all the while preventing the park from being covered in deer poop! 





Around 50 kinds of dung beetle live in Nara Park. They come in many different colors, from jet black to shades of yellow, from red hues to brilliant greens and purples, while others boast large horns.


One type of beetle in particular, the "Rurisenchi-kogane" which has a beautiful blue body, can only be found in Nara. When you visit Nara, take some time to try and find these wondrous beetles as they bring their delicious food back to their nests! 




Why not take a morning hike up Mt. Wakakusa and go dung beetle hunting for yourself?




5 Amazing Facts About Deer Droppings and Dung Beetles in Nara Park:


  1. Ecological Engineers: Dung beetles in Nara Park play a pivotal role in soil aeration and nutrient cycling. They not only clean the park but also enhance soil health, facilitating plant growth and maintaining biodiversity.

  2. A Spectrum of Colors: The dung beetles of Nara Park are not just brown or black; they exhibit a stunning variety of colors, including red, green, and indigo blue. This color variation is not just for show; it reflects the beetles' adaptation to their environment and possibly plays a role in their mating rituals.

  3. Cultural Icons: In Japan, beetles, including dung beetles, are often celebrated in art, anime, and literature, symbolizing strength, resilience, and beauty. Their presence in Nara Park adds a layer of cultural richness, connecting the natural world with traditional Japanese aesthetics.

  4. Nutritional Selectivity: Despite their seemingly unpalatable diet, dung beetles are selective feeders. They prefer deer droppings rich in nitrogen, which helps them synthesize proteins essential for their growth and reproduction. This selectivity underscores the beetles' role in nutrient recycling within the ecosystem.

  5. Population and Conservation: Nara Park is home to about 50 of the roughly 150 species of dung beetles found in Japan. The health of these beetle populations is closely tied to that of the park's deer, highlighting the interconnectedness of Nara's ecosystem, underscoring the importance of the park's ecological balance.

The dung beetles of Nara Park, with their vibrant hues and indispensable ecological functions, are a testament to the intricate web of life that sustains this historic site. Going largely unnoticed to the casual observer, they remind us of the beauty and resilience found in even the most humble of creatures, playing a silent yet significant role in the preservation of Nara's natural and cultural heritage.



 


Here's a snippet from one of our online Hotel-stay Experiences that we conducted during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. We took our online guests on a little tour through Nara-machi, starting at the Naramachi Entomological Museum of Dung Beetles




Access:







Address: 28-13 Minamijodocho, Nara, 630-8341

Hours: Saturdays: 13:00-18:00   Sundays: 13:00-18:00

Fee: Adults: ¥300 | Children: ¥100



 


Au


thor: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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