How Much Can a Dung Beetle Lift? Unveiling Nature’s Mighty Powerhouse

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Dung beetles are fascinating insects that possess incredible strength and play an essential role in maintaining the balance of various ecosystems. These remarkable creatures are known for their ability to transport and bury animal waste, which not only keeps the environment clean but also aids in nutrient cycling and soil enrichment.

Believe it or not, a dung beetle can lift astonishingly heavy loads in comparison to its own body weight. In fact, they can roll a ball that weighs up to 10 times their weight and bury dung that is 250 times heavier than they are in a single night. This impressive feat showcases their unparalleled strength and abilities in the animal kingdom.

Dung Beetle Overview

Species and Classification

Dung beetles belong to the family Scarabaeidae within the order Coleoptera, and class Insecta. They are arthropods, like insects, spiders, and crustaceans. Some examples of dung beetle species are:

  • Scarabaeus sacer (sacred scarab)
  • Euoniticellus intermedius (african dung beetle)
  • Copris hispanus (spanish dung beetle)

There are approximately 6,000 known species of dung beetles, which can be classified into three main groups:

  • Rollers
  • Tunnelers
  • Dwellers

Habitats and Distributions

Dung beetles live in a wide range of habitats, including:

  • Grasslands
  • Forests
  • Farmlands

They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, with the greatest diversity in tropical regions. Dung beetles are known for their unique feeding habits:

  • They consume animal feces primarily as adults
  • Larvae feed on the manure

Here are some benefits of dung beetles in their environment:

  • Nutrient recycling
  • Soil aeration
  • Natural pest control

In conclusion, dung beetles are essential insects found in many different habitats. Their role is crucial to maintaining ecological balance and enhancing soil quality.

Strength and Lifting Abilities

Comparisons with Other Animals

Dung beetles are known for their incredible strength. In fact, they are often considered the strongest insect and even the strongest animal in relation to their body weight. Some species can lift objects as heavy as 1,000 times their own weight. This is equivalent to a human lifting nearly double-decker buses!


  • Strongest insect
  • Strongest animal (relative to body weight)
  • Can lift objects up to 1,000 times their weight


  • Small size
  • Muscular build
  • Powerful exoskeleton

To put this into perspective, here is a comparison table of various animals’ strength relative to their body weight:

Animal Approximate Weight Lifted Relative to Body Weight
Dung Beetle 1,000 times
Gorilla 10 times
Elephant 2 times
Human 1-2 times

Factors Influencing Strength

The dung beetle’s strength mainly comes from its muscles and exoskeleton. These two components work together to enable the beetle to easily move heavy loads. Some factors that influence their strength include:

  1. Body weight: Smaller dung beetles have an advantage in terms of strength-to-weight ratio, which allows them to lift heavier objects relative to their size.
  2. Muscle: Dung beetles possess highly specialized muscles, providing the power to move heavy loads.
  3. Exoskeleton: The beetle’s external skeleton provides structural support and additional leverage when lifting.

To sum it up, dung beetles possess an impressive combination of muscles and exoskeleton that enables them to lift objects far heavier than their own body weight. They certainly live up to their reputation as the world’s strongest insect.

Reproduction and Mating

Male Competition

In the world of dung beetles, male competition is fierce. A notable example is the Onthophagus taurus, also known as the horned dung beetle. Males of this species are known for their impressive horns, which they use for combat when competing for mates.

  • Males will fight each other using their horns
  • The victor gains access to the female

Rhinoceros beetles, close relatives to dung beetles, also have horn structures which play a pivotal role in male combat and reproduction.

Female Selection

Female dung beetles have a few criteria when selecting a potential mate:

  • Size of the male
  • Size of the tunnel created by the male
  • Ability to protect the nest

When it comes to size, larger males are generally more favored as they can provide better protection against rivals and predators such as ants and eagles. The size of tunnels created by males is equally essential, as larger tunnels can provide more space for the larvae to grow.

Here’s a comparison table of factors that influence female selection:

Feature Importance in Female Selection
Size of male High
Tunnel size High
Nest protection High
Horn structure Medium (Varies by species)

In the process of impressing females, male beetles may engage in behaviors such as creating dung balls and locking horns with rivals. Evolution plays a key role in shaping these behaviors over time. A study from the University of London revealed that in species with more female selection, males evolved larger testes mass, likely due to increased sperm competition.

In conclusion, the mating and reproduction process is quite intricate for dung beetles. Male competition, size, and tunnel creation all impact female selection, while the constant pressure of evolution drives ongoing changes within these fascinating creatures.

Dung Collection and Usage

Types of Dung

Dung beetles collect different types of animal feces to create their dung balls. The volume and consistency of the dung depend on the animal it comes from. For example:

  • Cattle dung: Larger animals like cattle produce larger dung pats that can be more easily collected by a dung beetle.
  • Horse dung: It has a distinguishable texture that some dung beetles favor.
  • Sheep dung: Sheep dung comes in small pellets, making it harder for certain dung beetles to collect.

In general, the larger the animal, the more dung a dung beetle has to work with.

Purpose of Dung Balls

Dung beetles create dung balls for various reasons:

  • Food storage: Dung balls serve as a food source for both adult beetles and their larvae.
  • Reproduction: Females lay eggs inside dung balls, providing a nutrient-rich environment for the babies to grow in.

A few advantages of dung beetles using dung balls include:

  • Recycling nutrients from the dung back into the soil
  • Controlling fly populations by removing rotting organic matter
  • Aiding in natural soil fertilization
Animal Type Dung Description Benefits
Cattle Large, thick dung pats Easier collection
Horse Unique, firm texture Specific preference by some beetles
Sheep Small, pellet-like droppings Challenging collection

Overall, dung beetles play a crucial role in the ecosystem by recycling animal waste. They can lift dung that weighs up to 50 times their own body weight. This impressive ability makes them a highly important contributor to the health and balance of the environment.

Adaptations and Survival

Body Structures

Dung beetles, like other animal species, possess a variety of body structures that enable them to survive and thrive in their respective environments. For example:

  • Elephants: have large ears to help dissipate heat and strong trunks for grasping food and water.
  • Gorillas: exhibit strong arms for climbing trees and knuckle-walking.

In contrast, dung beetles possess unique features:

  • Body mass: Dung beetles typically have a much smaller body mass compared to larger mammals like elephants and gorillas, allowing them to move more easily through different habitats.
  • Strong front legs: adapted for digging and rolling dung balls, which can be up to 10 times their weight.

Habitat-Specific Behaviors

Dung beetles exhibit different behaviors according to the habitat they live in, such as:


  • Dung beetles in desert environments have adapted to conserve water and tolerate high temperatures.


  • Forest dwelling dung beetles rely primarily on celestial signals for navigation, as mentioned in this research.


  • In grasslands, dung beetles help disperse seeds and serve as important waste recyclers.

Dung beetles are not usually found in habitats containing large predators like grizzly bears, eagles, and anacondas, as these creatures do not leave behind dung piles for the beetles to feed on.

When comparing different habitat-specific behaviors, consider the following table:

Habitat Dung Beetle Behavior Example
Desert Water conservation and heat tolerance Scarabaeus species of dung beetles
Forest Celestial navigation Diurnal dung beetle species
Grassland Seed dispersion and waste recycling Copris, Onthophagus, and Aphodius species

In conclusion, dung beetles have adapted their body structures and behaviors to survive in different types of environments, such as deserts, forests, and grasslands. These unique adaptations allow them to make the most of the resources available in their habitats and avoid competition with other animals like elephants, gorillas, and large predators.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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50 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you for posting my bug. I LOVE this site!!! :}
    I noticed my typo after I sent this. They obviously were OUR dogs, not your dogs hahahaha!!
    And YES I washed my hands after handling it! ;}

  • Reply
  • I found one in my backyard today! Absolutely stunning beetle.

  • I found one in my backyard today! Absolutely stunning beetle.

  • Hi. The beetles are most likely Anisorrhina algoensis (Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae).

    • Thank you. We will try to find a link online.
      Do you believe Anisorrhina algoensis to be the correct species because of its appearance or because of its location? Can you please elaborate.

    • Thank you. We will try to find a link online.
      Do you believe Anisorrhina algoensis to be the correct species because of its appearance or because of its location? Can you please elaborate.

  • Please refer to our discussion under:

  • Hi – these are monkey beetles of the tribe Hopliini. Unfortunately, species identification will be very hard as not much work has been done on the taxonomy of these beetles.

  • I found a dung beetle in my yard. But from what I was told there not in the United States but I also see on your sight there was one found in myrtle beach sc and I am in lugoff sc
    Can someone give me more info on these beetles!

  • I found a dung beetle in my yard. But from what I was told there not in the United States but I also see on your sight there was one found in myrtle beach sc and I am in lugoff sc
    Can someone give me more info on these beetles!

  • thanks! after going back to the site and seeing numerous grapevine beetles about I think it’s probably safe to say it was one of those?

    • That is a good possibility. Our identification skills are a bit lacking when it comes to identifying pupae to the species level.

  • I am studying Entomology. I would like to know, what is the purpose of the horn on a male Phanaeus Vindex, Rainbow Scarab? Thank you, Cheryl James

    • We are sorry, but we do not know why the horn on the male Rainbow Scarab evolved, nor do we know what purpose it serves. We can make a guess, but we are pretty certain you do not want a guess, but here it goes anyways. Birds prey upon insects and being able to avoid being eaten by a bird would be an advantage in survival. Birds cannot chew, so birds must either be able to pull apart larger prey or to swallow smaller prey whole. The horn would make it difficult to swallow a male Rainbow Scarab whole, increasing its chances of survival. Again, that is just a guess.

  • We Have Scarab Larva In a Dieing Ash tree in Ohio can the beetle or larva affect Other Trees.?

  • I seen this beetle before at my house. At my house we just call them dung beetles.

  • Lindsey Hughes
    February 3, 2016 3:15 pm

    Hi… I was wondering if anyone may know where I might be able to purchase live rainbow scarabs. I’m not able to find any site online that sells them. Could there be a reason for this, or am I just not looking in the right place? If anyone has any suggestions on legitimate sites that sell live insects, including the rainbow scarab, please let me know… I would appreciate this so much! 🙂

  • Anthony Osborn
    May 5, 2016 5:24 pm

    We have one in wichita kansas. My dog had it in his mouth. The horn freaked me out cause I didn’t know if it hurt my dog.

    • The Rainbow Scarab is harmless, though if your dog decided to swallow a male Rainbow Scarab, the horn might stick in the dog’s throat.

  • It is a King Christmas beetle or anoplognathus viridiaeneus

  • James Richey
    April 4, 2017 5:44 pm

    Hi my name is James I’m from South Louisiana I was out taking care of some business and when I got home I sat down and see this beetle crawling on the floor if it was for this website I wouldn’t know what this beetle was thanks for the facts about this bug

  • What are the normal involvement it lives in like woods or desert or near a Lake? I found one alive and want to keep it as a pet. It is a mail.

  • Sorry not sarry
    Sorry again

  • Sorry not sarry
    Sorry again

  • Gene St. Denis
    May 23, 2017 8:28 am

    Daniel and Irene , I believe that you have a fine example of a Paracotalpa granicollis . Very Nice Find People ! I may grab Barbara and head over to that area as some friends mentions that they were flying around Reno and Pyramid Lake as well . I have also collected flying specimens of Paracotalpa leonina in the south eastern Sierra Nevada’s from January to March ( depending on the Year ) in a band of 3900 to 6000 feet from Bishop west of Hwy 395 South down to the Little Lake / Nine Mile Canyon Area . They are a very cute ,little , and fuzzy High desert basin Scarab ! Cheers ! Gene St. Denis Sierra Nevada Research

  • I have a live female here in my garden, but she keeps rolling onto her back, & wont do anything else. I have put her upright, but she immediately rolls back over again. Amherst MA.

  • I found one like this on my deck in Granger, Indiana a month ago. I’d never seen one before.

  • It was!!!! Thank you for letting me know.

  • I have the same problem. Are there treatments for these bugs?!?!
    Why do they destroy the plant when all they should be doing is polonate it? ?

  • I have the same problem. Are there treatments for these bugs?!?!
    Why do they destroy the plant when all they should be doing is polonate it? ?

  • Just found one all the in Shelby NC?

  • Gene St. Denis
    March 25, 2019 7:53 am

    Terri and WTB , you have a beautiful example of Paracotalpa ursina rubripennis in the dark form . Cheers ! Gene St. Denis Sierra Nevada Research

  • thank you for the classic ‘Fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma’ I am working on Coleoptera from Nashik. This is precious.

  • If anybody finds one, please let me know, I have been looking for an example for a very long time. I will buy it! Text me, 4two5 four4nine 28fourfive.

  • We just released ours that my daughter found in Fairbanks.

    • So funny — I’d never seen one before. We released ours as well. Might be a good year for them in the interior 😉

  • Just found one in Floresville, TX


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