Oct 042015

Dung Beetles Life and Value



It takes Two?… Two is better than One?… It’s a Two thing?… You Pick!


Our Friendly Little Bug the Dung Beetle

OK, so you think I’m crazy writing about none other than a dung beetle scarab. You’re going to be surprised at what these little bugs represent to our everyday lives. “I live in the middle of a city” you say? Yes in the city as well. Heard of flies? Now that’s a dumb question right, well if flies are an enemy, then these little dung beetle critters, will be your best friend, since they get rid of flies. Ask the Australians who imported them to their country from South Africa to do just that, get rid of flies and very successfully as well, in all the areas where they were introduced.

The way the dung beetle works, in ridding us of flies, is by burying the dung ball they make, which kills the fly eggs in the dung. That’s only a few flies you say. Try one metric ton of dung per hectare per year. Now that’s a lot of flies and internal parasites killed per year. It helps to know they live up to two years and more to our benefit.

Are there many you ask? Well in one elephant dung pile you can find 16,000 dung beetles, until you drive over them. Southern Africa houses 780 species of the over 7,000 there are worldwide. At the same time they are an ecological miracle in soil conditioning, as well as grass seed populators.

No one is saying whether dung beetles have a sense of smell or not? But they definitely have a sense of direction and in fact a very good one, so don’t be surprised when it looks like it doesn’t know where it’s going, because it does. Dung beetles can also find a dung pile in a matter of minutes as well as consume it in less than a day. To aid them with transport to the pile is that they can fly, except for the endangered flightless dung beetle – at the bottom last pic.


There Are Four Types Of Dung Beetle.

Ball rolling dung beetles are called telecoprids (ball rollers). Two rolling a ball means that ball is going to be a food ball, or a nuptial ball where they mate and eat the ball together. Then you get the brood ball, upon which the female lays a single egg. This ball is then buried and left for the young to pupate, eat out the contents and a hole in the ball when ready to hatch. Now you can understand how so many balls can be made in one season.

There are three other types of dung beetle. They are the endocoprids or ‘dwellers’ who live in the dung, mating, eating and hatching in situ. Also the paracoprids or ‘tunnelers’ bury the dung beneath the pile for the young to feed on and hatch underground under the pile. The following group are the cleptocoprids who in good old parasite fashion, steal the telecoprids (ball rollers) balls from them and use those to breed their own young in.

You might like to know there is a preferred dung of choice and 72% of dung beetles prefer herbivore dung.

The down side is, their predators are many? Yes, they do have quit a lot of them as well. Apart from the obvious, like vehicles, poison and weather, to name a few, they also face natural predators like mongoose, civets, honey badgers, baboons and from birds like owls, hornbills and other predator birds.


Chrome on the move. I don’t think they’re diamonds. And if they are… Well…



See the chrome green legs?



Chrome is a popular color for dung beetles. I wonder what that tells us?



Starting the hole for burying the ball



Pulling the ball over the hole.



Going! Dung beetle burial, aligning the ball



Going! Dung beetle burial. Pulling the ball down while digging underneath.



Going! Dung beetle burial, the ball being helped deeper



Gone! Dung beetle final burial



This is a rare flightless dung beetle

So there you have it, from a not so boring creature after all.

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Meet Our Authors: The Wildmoz team, Cari and Moz, have a lifelong passion for the Bushveld and share adventures and stories about Africa's good things. Wildmoz is Africa - the cradle of life! Travel writing about wildlife, African folklore, wildlife art, Kruger Park and wildlife safari info! Taste life as it is in Africa.
 Posted by on October 4, 2015