Dung Beetle Facts
the overlooked heroes of the bush
Dung Beetle Life Cycle
Categories of Dung Beetles
More often than not while out on game drive we seem to always be on the lookout for bigger creatures such as the Big Five, Cheetah or wild dog.
What we more often than not overlook are insects, some which play a vitally important role in keeping healthy Eco systems functioning well.
If ever you find yourself doubting whether or not you love your job keep this in mind; this little creature has a menial job title of: Shuffling poo around. And whilst this might not sound like a glamour title the DUNG BEETLE seems to absolutely love it.
If you have ever been on game drive or even a walk in the bush you may have noticed these peculiar creatures, low flying with a loud buzzing sound and closely resembling a hovering helicopter. They always seem to be coming right for your face and somehow look as if they moving in slow motion.
If you have ever been lucky enough to spot these fellows on the ground you may have noticed the near perfect circular shape of poo they cart around.
Dung beetles have very one very important task and that is of being a decomposer, taking waste, cleaning it up or using it and utilizing it in a positive way!
Dung beetles feed almost exclusively of faeces (Poo). They find the poo; roll it into a ball and with that make their way in very straight lines to their holes.
Dung beetles are mainly broken down into 4 groups:
The first group are the Telecoprid; they roll the famous balls of rounded dung. The Endocoprids lay their eggs in a pile of dung. The Paracoprid dig down below dung and the Kleptocorprid or klepto dung beetles as I call them, they steal balls of dung!
Dung beetles are reliant of dung for food not just for themselves but also for their larvae.
Telecorprid beetles will roll their ball of dung until they find a suitable place, they then dig a hole and submerge it, they then repeat the patter find more dung, roll a ball and place that on top of the other dung ball. Often they make and bury as many as three balls before closing the hole with their larvae in the first ball. What is really interesting about this is that the last ball will always “hatch” first followed by the second and then the deepest one, all this to prevent traffic on the way out.
During the rainy summer season dung beetles play the major roll of cleaning up the environment, when summer is over their decomposer friends the termites take over for the winter shift of poo shuffling. Dung beetles are the cleanup crews of the bush and extremely effective at it. You will be surprised how efficient they are and how quickly they can move and disperse faces.
The dung that is buried is vital of nutrient soil as it decomposes; it aerates and fertilizes the soil.
Dung beetles range in size from a tiny 5 mm, to a very substantial 50 mm and are divided into groups according to how they dispose of the dung. They are either “rollers”, rolling the dung into balls and then burying the balls in soft soil; or “burrowers”, taking the dung into tunnels directly under the main heap; or “dwellers” which actually live in the dung. There are often many varied species of dung beetles in a single pile of manure.
They are very diverse in appearance and can range from blue, to black to a copper color. Beetles have a lifespan of approximately 3 years. Their eggs hatch and will feed on the solid material surrounding them whilst adults will also supplement food with a drink (liquid excretions from faces)
Scarabaeus zambesianus. – This African dung beetle is very clever and uses polarization of moonlight to navigate.
A few things are very evident with dung beetles, they are hard working, with a clear passion for what they do as they literally work, eat, sleep and drink ....POO.
They are extremely strong and often push a ball around far greater than their own weight using only their back legs.
All the groups play an important roll,
Endocoprids are dung beetles that burrow and nest on site when fresh dung is discovered.
Paracoprids tunnel beneath the dung pile and deposit dung at the end of the tunnel for consumption and egg incubation.
Kleptocoprids locate brood balls of other dung beetle groups and parasitic them by laying their own eggs on the host’s ball. Kleptocoprid larvae have been seen to kill the host beetle larvae during development therefore playing no part in faeces cycling. Other dung beetles play a major role in the ecosystem in secondary seed dispersal, nutrient cycling and parasite suppression.
So next time you find yourself in the bush and you hear a low flying helicopter bug, look out for these clever critters and their poo rolling antics