What are Dung Beetles?

Dung beetles are one of the world’s tiniest and most effective recyclers. Much like a compost pile, dung beetles recycle feces.

Dung beetles were once considered a sacred symbol for the Ancient Egyptians. Also known as scarabs, dung beetles can be classified into three major groups. All of them feed almost exclusively on feces, which is why they are dubbed the dung beetle. They have also been known to feed on rotting leaves, fruits, and mushrooms. While dung beetles eat both omnivore and herbivore excrement, they prefer the latter.

The first and most common group of dung beetles is the rollers. These particular dung beetles roll dung into little balls which they then drag to their chambers to be used as food. They also use these balls as a sort of breeding ground. The second group of dung beetles is the tunnelers, which bury the dung wherever they come across it. The final group of dung beetles classification is the dwellers, which choose to plain and literally live in their food source. These are the rarest and smallest of the three groups, and are specifically attracted to the dung of a certain owl species.

Roller dung beetles can roll up to 50 times their own weight, and will usually drag their dung ball in a straight line away from the source no matter the obstacles in this line. Sometimes they are seen in male-female teams, as this is how they breed. Once the ball is made and rolled back to their quarters, the dung beetle duo mate and the female deposits her eggs into the ball for incubation.

Tunnel digging dung beetles are known for their efficiency in ridding cattle farms of potentially harmful waste by burying it underground. This practice makes the dung unavailable to pests and bacteria and is responsible for aiding in hygienic efforts. Without dung beetles, there would be too much feces.

For this very important reason, dung beetles are encouraged and even introduced to places where they are lacking. Not only do they indirectly protect cattle from flies and potential diseases, they improve the quality and nutrient density in the soil of the farms.

These superb eco-friendly beetles are found in all continents of our planet except Antarctica, due to the cold and lack of food source. Dung beetles prefer temperate climates that are neither too dry nor cold, although the habitats can range from dessert to rainforest.

Dung beetles usually find their food using their highly efficient sense of smell. Some of them go on the hunt for dung piles while others stick to the source and wait for it to be produced. These are then rewarded with being the first at the scene and can get away with their meal before other dung beetles approach and steal their efforts.

Dung beetles are very much an essential component of our planets ecosystem. More than just the proverbial maids in nature, they feed the soil and recycle waste, saving the cattle farm industry millions of dollars each year in pest control costs. That’s a lot of weight to roll around!


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