Whole lot of holes

Ever wondered what animal made the holes in the ground that seem to be everywhere at this time of year? It can be difficult to work out, but a bit of detective work and a lot of patience can pay off.

Quite often, if you stand back, stay quiet and watch, the owner of the hole will return. If it is a wasp digging a burrow in which to lay its eggs, it will likely back out and go back down repeatedly as it removes sand. Later it will make trips to stock the burrow with provisions for the larvae.

Western bearded dragons dig burrows when it is time to lay their eggs, too. Sometimes you can see the tip of its tail sticking out of the hole. But don’t disturb them by watching too long because they will get nervous, run away and have to start all over again.

Rainbow bee-eaters also lay their eggs in burrows. But unlike the others, the parents stay with the eggs to keep them warm and protected until they hatch. Then they bring food to the nestlings as they grow.

Other animals, like some spiders and scorpions, live their whole lives in burrows. They only come to the surface to catch their food and find a mate.

Each of these burrows suits the needs of the animal digging it. However, the animals have had new challenges in the last 200 years. Dogs and rats now dig up the animals’ burrows and eat the eggs and young. Cats hunt and eat ground nesting animals and so reduce the chances of the young hatching successfully. There are more people around and so nest disturbance is increased. Off-road driving can cause burrows to collapse and crush or bury the animals alive.

Nevertheless, even with all of these hazards, the animals persist in our natural areas. The next time you see a hole in the ground, spare a thought for the animal living underground and what you can do to make its life a little easier.