Dung beetle – diet, habitat, facts and lifespan with images

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Updated: January 17, 2017

“Harmless most useful creature,” is the description you can give this wonderful creature called Dung Beetle. Ask any dairy farmer and they will tell you that the presence of cow dung and having to clean every now and then is the greatest challenge they face in their dairy farming activity. They have to employ a helper who will do the job of cleaning as they do those other activities of feeding and milking the cows.  The reason why most people would rather buy milk for their consumption than keep cows, who would give them milk for their consumption as well as sell to their neighbors thus giving them extra income, is the issue of having to clean dung every now and then.  Those people who keep horses will give you the same story.  They will say the greatest challenge they face is to clean the dung every day.

The farmers will tell you that the greatest challenge they face is transporting dung and other organic manure to their farm and mixing it with the soil so as toboost the fertility of the soil.  Most of them buy artificial fertilizers which if used for long is very harmful to the soil. It is very expensive to hire workers to do all the work of transporting manure to the gardens and mixing it with the soil.

I know you are wondering, “What has all these got to do with these little harmless creatures, the dung beetle?”  To tell you the truth, it has everything to do with these little harmless creatures, the dung beetle.  Ever wondered where their name originated from? As you continue reading, I am sure you will not need to be told.


Dung Beetle Description

Dung beetles are small in size.  Their size varies from one species to another and also some male dung beetles are larger in size than the female.  Most dung beetles are 3 cm long and 2 cm wide. Some are smaller than this and a few bigger than this. Dung beetles have a hard cover on their back.  This hard cover protects its delicate wings and body from being harmed during their busy activities.  They have very strong legs with which they roll dung.



Dung beetles eat fresh dung.  You will always find dung beetle where there is dung and especially where herbivorous animals are. Their main activity is to roll this fresh dung into big balls and roll them to a far place and hide this dung inside some soil.  A dung beetle can carry dung which is even 500 times bigger than its size. They hide this dung so that they can use it for food in a near future and also for breeding.  The dung beetle uses their strong sense of smell to locate the dung.

In some cases a male and a female dung beetle will roll the same dung and hide it in the soil.  Each dung beetle fears that their dung will be stolen by the other dung beetle and so will take it as far from the others as possible. In so doing the dung is scattered in the whole garden or field.  The dung has all the nutrients the dung beetle requires and also because fresh dung is usually wet and full of moisture, it does not require to drink water after eating the dung.


Dung Beetle Reproduction

Many dung beetles will invade the same dung and try to carry as much as possible.  The male will spot a female dung beetle and will approach it.  Dung beetle produce certain sounds which is believed to be a way of courting.  The male and the female dung beetle will roll the same dung together usually a very big size.  The male is the one who rolls unless when it encounters an obstacle and then a females’ assistance is required.  They will take the dung to their hiding place and burry it under the soil.  They will mate and thereafter build a brooding place inside the ball dung.

The dung beetle will put some food inside the brooding ball in form of dung or plants for its offspring.  This is called mass provisioning.   Then the female dung beetle will lay an egg in the brooding ball.  It will then seal the brooding ball and wait on the outside until the larvae is hatched. The egg takes a week or two to hatch.  Some species of dung beetle will wait and protect its off spring at all cost.  Dung beetle goes through a metamorphosis.   When the food provided with runs out, the larvae feeds on the dung surrounding it.



Dung beetles are found everywhere as long as there is fresh dung.  They are able to adapt to any climatic change.  The availability of dung beetle is solely dependent on the availability of fresh dung.



Like any other animals, dung beetles have predators.  Their main predators are Ibis, foxes, crows and some other vertebrates.  These animals feed on the dung beetle and find them most delicious. Dung beetles have some other enemies who are least mentioned, ‘small young children’.  You will agree with me that if a child sits at a place where these dung beetles are found, they will break the outer hard cover in attempt to see what this dung beetle looks like without the hard cover and in so doing will kill it.  Dung beetle multiply very fast and the death of a few cannot have a big impact.


Benefits and Uses of Dung Beetle

At the sight of dung beetle, one would not even think it can be of any use to anything or anyone.  You would even confuse it with some pests and would run up and down looking for a pesticide that would wipe them out of your vicinity. This small creature is very beneficial to everyone.

It can save a lot of money.  Dung beetles invade fresh dung and within no time all dung is removed.  Most dairy farmers, who know this secret, travel far places in search of dung beetles.  It saves them a lot of time and money and does the work of cleaning the cow shed perfectly well.  Some dairy farmers have very small farms and have nowhere to dispose this dung.  With the dung beetle that stress of where to dispose the dung is far removed.  Almost everybody would love to keep some dairy cows but the thought of cleaning the cow shed every now and then puts off the idea.  Think about how much money those who have hired workers spend on just cleaning the cow sheds which would otherwise be part of their profits.

In agriculture, soil requires a renewal of nutrients after the previous ones are consumed by the planted plants.  These nutrients are found in organic manure.  Dung is one of the organic manure.  A farmer will buy this dung from a dairy farmer and transport it to his farm. Then mix this dung with soil before planting his favorite crops.  It is quite a task and costs too much in terms of labor and the cost to buy this manure.  The dung beetles transport this dung to the farm from wherever for free and as if that is not enough, they burry the dung in the soil thus mixing it with the soil. Think about how much cost it saves this farmer in terms of labor, time and the cost to buy this manure.  This is why I caution you not to kill a dung beetle in the presence of a crop or a dairy farmer because you may receive a heavy blow.


Amazing Dung Beetle Pictures





Dung Beetle diet


Dung Beetle predators







Most people do not know the economic importance of dung beetle.  Since these small creatures cannot be put in a zoo for conservation, much awareness programs should be put in place to sensitize people on their importance and how they should be safeguarded.  Most crop farmers and dairy farmers should be taught of their importance.  They should be encouraged to keep them so that they can help them in cleaning the cow or horse shed and in transporting the dung to the garden.

Most farmers are known to complain about how they are not able to ‘break even’ in their farming business because the expenses are more than the profits.  The dairy farmers are also known to complain about how the dairy farming business is earning them little or no profits at all.  The main problem here is found in the cost of labor which could be eliminated through the introduction of these small creatures, the dung beetle, and they won’t have to incur some maintenance cost because these dung beetles feed on the dung.

Dung Beetle facts

The catch here lies on teaching and making the farmers understand that this small creature can be of that much help to them.  I think it would be better to teach them practically because most of them will not believe that a single dung beetle can carry dung that is over 1000 times its size.  You will hear some laughing at such an idea and asking, “How much dung can such a small animal carry?”

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