NARA--Keiichi Nakamura is on a mission to honor bugs whose absence could leave a famed park here ankle-deep in feces.

Dung beetles “pick up” after the 1,200 wild deer that roam Nara Park and produce one ton of excrement daily.

Long fascinated by the beauty of the bugs, Nakamura, 53, plans to open the Naramachi Funchukan museum in July to introduce the coprophagous beetles. The facility will be set up near Nara Park, called a “holy land” for the insects.

“The name of Nara Park typically reminds people of deer, but the deer ecology is preserved thanks to dung beetles,” Nakamura said. “I want people to understand the attractiveness of the invisible existence.”

Measuring a few millimeters to several centimeters long, dung beetles can dissolve substances that animals cannot digest in their bodies.

Deer excrement is processed by the bugs and then treated by micro-organisms. The decomposed feces provide nutrients for grass, which is consumed by deer.

About 150 coprophagous beetle species can be found across Japan. But with Nara Park providing such a favorable environment, about 60 of them have been identified there, according to Nakamura.

After learning about dung beetles from a friend during his junior high school days, Nakamura found an earth-boring dung beetle at Nara Park.

Enamored of its beautiful body shining in sunlight under a tree, he set up an insect study club.

When he was a senior high school student, Nakamura’s club won the prefectural governor’s prize in the regional qualifying round of the Japan Student Science Awards for its dung beetle research.

After graduating from Kyoto University, Nakamura started working at Norinchukin Bank. He also traveled to the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region in China, Cambodia and elsewhere to study overseas dung beetles.

In his museum, Nakamura plans to exhibit the specimens in fashionable ways, such as at jewelry shops.

He hopes the negative connotations with the word “dung” can be changed through increased viewing of the beauty of the bugs.