While I am in no way a scientist, I am an endlessly fascinated observer of nature. Even as we and our neighbors have plodded through this drought, reducing herds and leaving fields unplanted, I am amazed daily by what has survived and, in some cases, thrived.
The last month or so on my morning walks, I have seen an abundance of dung beetles. They happen to be favorites of mine, these dedicated little arthropods that devote themselves to shaping balls of manure they push backwards on meandering paths. Almost comical to watch, they do important clean-up work on our planet.
So why the increase in observable numbers? I have three completely unscientific theories.
The optimist in me wants to believe they are an indicator of prairie health, and seeing more of them hard at work is a wonderful sign.
The pessimist in me worries that I'm only seeing more because the piles of fresh manure they rely upon are fewer and farther between these days.
But the realist in me is convinced there is only one thing that can really explain the sudden increase in dung beetle numbers. It's simply Mother Nature ramping up to meet a need.
This is, after all, an election year.
Betty Williamson is grateful she never has to walk backwards pushing anything. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.