What is so special about dung beetles?

Dung beetles primarily use mammal dung for feeding and nesting. These beetles recycle dung into soil, enabling nutrients to cycle through the ecosystem. They provide benefits like dispersing seeds, reducing livestock parasites, and promoting plant growth.

Dung beetles have insulated feet allowing them to walk on hot landscapes like the Kalahari Desert. For further heat refuge, they use dung balls for shade. Yes, dung beetles have predators – ibis, crows, foxes and vertebrates find them delicious and nutritious.

Some dung beetle species can bury dung 250 times their mass overnight. Many roll dung into balls used for food or breeding. Others bury dung where they find it. Another group lives in dung collected by burrowing owls. Dung beetles have various colors and sizes. All belong to Scarabaeoidea, most to Scarabaeinae and Aphodiinae of Scarabaeidae.

One African dung beetle species uses the Milky Way to steer its dung ball home. While many beetles prefer certain dung types, few specialize on just one. If one mammal is lost, most switch to another’s dung. We found some even eat python dung! Although networks were resilient in moderately disturbed habitats, heavily disturbed sites had fewer species and interactions.

Dung beetles provide ecosystem services like dispersing seeds, reducing livestock parasites and promoting plant growth. Relative to size, they are the world’s strongest insect and animal! When moving dung balls, rollers can pull 1,141 times their weight – equal to a human dragging six buses!

Dung beetles exhibit fighting mechanisms like horns used for battles over territory and resources. Their strong sense of smell also helps locate and protect food. One can pull a dung ball 1,141 times its weight – equal to a human dragging six buses! Weighing up to 10 times the beetle’s weight, the balls are buried as a food source.

Dung beetles don’t have a glamorous name or job but they are essential to manure management. About 8,000 species feast on manure and rotting vegetation worldwide. Most species are of least concern or data deficient, but some are endangered. They provide valuable ecosystem services like dispersing seeds and reducing livestock parasites.

Are dung beetles harmless?

Dung beetles provide benefits for ecosystems’ health and functioning, like dispersing seeds, reducing livestock parasites, and promoting plant growth. Dung beetles live on every continent except Antarctica and have adapted to various environments. Though tiny, they play huge roles in ecosystems’ vitality and productivity. Their focus on dung means human interaction with them is limited. So dung beetle bites are rare. A common scenario is people hiking or walking in grasslands. However, dung beetles are not aggressive to humans. The risk of getting bitten is minimal. Their mandibles manipulate and shape dung into balls. Mandibles are not for biting or inflicting pain. And most lack stingers or strong jaws to harm humans. But their defense mechanisms should not be underestimated.

When Darwin landed in Tasmania in 1836, he was surprised native beetles adapted from hard, dry marsupial dung to moist, sticky cow dung. By the 1960s, native Australian beetles struggled in cow dung. Dung beetles declining alarmingly on industrial farms using insecticides against livestock parasites. They’re essential for functioning of natural and managed livestock systems. A diverse underground community quickly degrades manure. Without dung beetles and invertebrates those systems cannot function. Dung beetles could suppress pathogens in soil before spreading to humans. So organic farmers increasingly challenged by safety guidelines could benefit.

Some dung beetle species can bury dung 250 times their mass nightly. Rollers roll dung into balls for food or breeding chambers. Tunnelers bury dung wherever found. Dwellers live in dung collected by burrowing owls. Dung beetles have various colors and sizes. Biomass and leg length are highly variable traits. All belong to Scarabaeoidea superfamily, mostly Scarabaeinae and Aphodiinae families. A dung beetle can fly 30 miles to dung, roll 10 times its weight, and bury 250 times its weight nightly. They convert feces into fertilizer and oil for ARK Survival Evolved efforts. Dung removal reduces E. coli bacteria and kills pathogens. The scarab beetle figures in ancient Egyptian iconography, rolling the sun containing seeds of new life. The bull-headed dung beetle hauls over 1,100 times its weight, making it the strongest animal. Males either sneak mating or lock horns to access the female.

Why do dung beetles make balls?

Dung beetles feed on feces. Some species can bury dung 250 times their mass in one night. Many dung beetles, known as rollers, roll dung into balls. The balls are used as food or breeding chambers. Others, known as tunnelers, bury the dung wherever they find it.

The name dung beetle is due to carrying balls of dung up to 200 times its weight daily. These beetles feel attraction to herbivore feces. They trace the aroma. They tear off pieces and knead dung until a meatball forms. They roll it to the nest. The female lays an egg inside. The larva develops into an adult in this environment.

Rollers form dung into a ball, roll it away, and bury it. After meeting at dung, male and female rollers bond. Recent research suggests omnivore excrement provides nutrition and odor to make it easy to find.

Some dung beetles don’t roll dung balls. Aphidian dung beetles simply live within the dung. Geotrupidae tunnel below the dung pile.

Dung beetles may use dung balls to cool themselves. Dung beetle larvae eat the solid dung. Adult beetles suck up nutritious moisture.

Telecoprid dung beetles evolved a technique to avoid competition. They quickly build a ball and roll it away in a straight line. They strictly adhere to their path, rolling over obstacles.

Some dung beetles use celestial orientation to locate dung. Diurnal dung beetles use the sun’s position and scattered sunlight.

Are there dung beetles in the US?

Dung beetles are found on all continents except Antarctica and live in farmland, forest, grassland, prairie, and desert habitats. There are more than 500 species of native dung beetles in Australia. Only a small number of native dung beetle species are able to break up and bury cow pads. You can see if there are dung beetles in a pasture by simply breaking open a cow pat. Adult dung beetles collect fresh dung and carry it to underground burrows where it provides food for developing larvae. They are so beneficial that some species have been imported to California to control cow manure buildup.

Dung beetles eat dung excreted by herbivores and omnivores, and prefer that produced by the former. They also eat plants, mushrooms and fruit. Most dung beetles search for dung using their sensitive sense of smell. Some species simply attach themselves to wait for their reward. After capturing the dung, a dung beetle will roll it, following a straight line despite obstacles.

All that fertilizer is a great start to improving fertility. Dung beetles reduce loss by quickly incorporating manure into the soil, thus incorporating nitrogen. The dung beetle’s plan is to feed its larvae. But the larvae use only 40-50% of the brood ball. The rest is left behind for soil microbes, fungi and bacteria to create humus.

As we know, detritivores allow animal life to continue. Dung beetles remove waste posing health risks. They help remove pathogens like E. coli from soil.