The Sacred Scarab (Scarabaeus sacer) is the most famous species of scarab beetles (family Scarabaeidae), and one of many thousands species that make their living from utilizing dung. On average, about 40% of the food intake of animals is either excreted as urine or passed out of the body as faeces. This waste is decomposed and returned to the soil by insects that use dung as food for themselves and for their larvae, thereby preventing it from building up. If left unprocessed, livestock wastes may present a serious health risk to the human population, because they contain some pathogenic microorganisms.
The Sacred Scarab is famous for making spherical dung balls, rolling them away and burying intact in shallow burrows. Occasionally, the Scarabs roll their balls from the east to the west, the same path taken by the sun. This activity of the Scarabs provided an ideal allegory for the movement of the sun across the daytime sky.
When the ball of dung has been buried, beetles lay their eggs in it. The eggs would then be incubated by the warmth of the sun’s rays, and newly hatched larvae would feed on dung in the safe harbour provided by parent beetles. Ancient Egyptians saw in the life-cycle of the Scarab a microcosm of the daily voyage of the sun emerging from the Duat to cross the daytime sky before sinking below the horizon again at sunset. Furthermore, the Sacred Scarab was a symbol of resurrection and reincarnation in ancient Egypt, called there Khepri – the life giving force deity. See here for more details.
The photographed specimen is just one specimen from the large Manchester Museum’s collection of scarab beetles, numbering over 3,000 species.