Where Do Dung Beetles Live? Uncovering Their Habitats and Lifestyles

Dung beetles are fascinating insects with a primary diet of animal feces. Found in a range of environments across the world, these beetles play a crucial role in nutrient cycling and promoting healthy ecosystems. In this article, we’ll explore where dung beetles reside and their environmental preferences.

As a reader, you might be wondering where these helpful creatures can be encountered. Dung beetles inhabit a wide array of ecosystems, such as forests, grasslands, farmlands, and even deserts. Their distribution spans from North America to Africa, Asia, Australia, and parts of South America. These adaptable insects adjust their lifestyles according to the availability of their primary food source – animal dung.

Now that you have an idea of the vast range of environments where dung beetles thrive, it’s essential to understand how they live. In general, there are three main types of dung beetles based on their habits: rollers, tunnelers, and dwellers. Rollers shape dung into balls and roll them away to bury them in the soil, tunnelers dig directly underneath the dung pile, and dwellers simply live in the dung itself. Each type plays a distinct role in contributing to the health of their respective ecosystems.

Understanding Dung Beetles

Dung beetles belong to the family Scarabaeidae within the order Coleoptera. They’re a fascinating group of invertebrates known for their unique ability to feed and reproduce in animal dung. These beetles play an essential role in maintaining ecological balance by breaking down waste and recycling nutrients.

You’ll find dung beetles mostly in the subfamily Scarabaeinae. Their appearance might remind you of other scarabs from the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. However, it’s crucial to remember that not all scarabs are dung beetles.

As you explore the world of dung beetles, you’ll learn about their distinctive features:

  • Strong front legs for digging and rolling dung balls
  • Antennae that are specialized for locating dung
  • Males often possess horn-like structures for competition

Dung beetles inhabit various environments, from deserts to forests. They adapt well to their surroundings, as seen through their diverse habitat preferences.

For instance, some dung beetle species prefer:

  • Dry, sandy areas
  • Moist, decaying leaves
  • Forest floors

In summary, understanding dung beetles helps you appreciate their essential role in ecosystems. You can easily recognize these invertebrates by their unique adaptations and roles within the family Scarabaeidae. So, the next time you’re out exploring nature, notice the small but remarkable world of these beetles.

Types of Dung Beetles and Their Behavior

Rollers and Their Unique Actions

Rollers are a fascinating group of dung beetles that shape dung into balls and then roll them away from the source. This is essential for their survival as it prevents competition for food and nesting sites. Here are some key features of rollers:

  • They form dung balls and roll them for up to 50 meters
  • These balls are either used as a food source or as a nesting site for their offspring

For example, the Scarabaeus sacer, or sacred scarab, is a well-known roller species found in Africa and southern Europe.

Tunnelers and Their Adaptations

Tunnelers, also known as earth-boring dung beetles or tunnellers, are another group of dung beetles that bury themselves and the dung directly below the feces. Their unique adaptations allow them to thrive in environments with highly competitive dung resources. Some characteristics include:

  • They dig tunnels below the dung pile, sometimes reaching a depth of up to 40 centimeters
  • The tunnels serve as both food storage and breeding chambers for their larvae

An example of a tunneler species is the Onthophagus taurus, commonly referred to as the “bull-headed dung beetle.”

Dwellers and Their Characteristics

Lastly, dwellers are dung beetles that live within or just below the fresh dung piles. They are also known as Endocoprids. Here’s what makes dwellers stand out:

  • Their entire life cycle, from egg to adult, takes place within the dung pile
  • They consume the dung as a food source and lay their eggs on or in the feces

The Aphodius fossor is an example of a dweller species found in North America and Europe.

Dung Beetle Type Example Species Behavior Key Features
Roller Scarabaeus sacer Rolling dung balls Forms and rolls dung up to 50 meters
Tunneler Onthophagus taurus Digging tunnels under dung Buries dung and tunnels up to 40cm deep
Dweller Aphodius fossor Living within dung piles Entire life cycle within dung pile

In summary, the three types of dung beetles – rollers, tunnelers, and dwellers – each exhibit unique and fascinating behaviors that enable them to efficiently use dung resources for their survival. By understanding their different behaviors and characteristics, you can better appreciate the ecological roles these beetles play in our environment.

Life Cycle of Dung Beetles

The Egg Stage

During the egg stage, dung beetles lay their eggs in small burrows they dug in the ground, or they can bury them deep inside the dung itself. This provides the eggs with a rich source of food and protection from predators.

  • Location: Burrows or dung
  • Purpose: Food source and protection

Larvae Development

Once the eggs hatch, the larvae go through a process called complete metamorphosis. They are initially small grubs that consume the dung surrounding them. As they grow, they continue to feed on the dung to develop and transform.

  • Process: Complete metamorphosis
  • Feeding: Consume dung

The Adult Phase

Upon completing their development, the grubs emerge as fully grown adult dung beetles. In this phase, they participate in various behaviors such as rolling dung into balls to store it as food, or to lay their own eggs. They contribute to the ecosystem by recycling nutrients, reducing flies, and improving soil quality.

  • Behaviors: Rolling dung, reproduction
  • Contributions: Recycling nutrients, reducing flies, soil improvement

Comparison table:

Stage Primary Activity Location
Egg Protection Burrows or dung
Larvae Development Dung
Adult Reproduction Various habitats

As you observe the life cycle of dung beetles, from the egg stage to the adult phase, it becomes clear how these insects play an important ecological role in the environment. They not only improve soil quality, but also manage waste and reduce the number of flies. So, the next time you encounter a dung beetle, you can appreciate its contributions to our ecosystem.

The Anatomy of a Dung Beetle

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures that play crucial roles in removing animal feces from the environment. They come in different sizes, ranging from 4.1-5.4 mm in length and 2.1-2.6 mm wide. These insects feature six legs and robust bodies, which enable them to navigate through various habitats.

Horns are a distinctive feature of some dung beetle species. These structures extend from the head or thorax and are used for fighting and digging. In contrast, other species lack horns and exhibit different characteristics.

The antennae of dung beetles are clubbed, with feathery segments that can be compressed or fanned open. These sensory structures help them locate dung and communicate with other beetles.

One prominent feature of dung beetles is their elytra – the hardened, protective wing coverings. These often end in a reddish color near the abdomen source.

To summarize, here are some key features of dung beetles:

  • Sizes: 4.1-5.4 mm in length, 2.1-2.6 mm wide
  • Six legs
  • Horns (in some species)
  • Clubbed antennae
  • Elytra (hardened wing coverings)
  • Reddish color at the end of elytra in some species

By understanding the anatomy of these incredible insects, you can appreciate their unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in various environments while fulfilling an essential ecological duty.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures with unique feeding habits. They primarily consume feces, making them excellent decomposers. Due to their diet preferences, they are considered coprophagous insects. Let’s dive deeper into their dining choices.

Dung beetles can be categorized into three main feeding types:

  • Telecoprids: These beetles roll feces into balls and move them away from the original pile.
  • Endocoprids: These beetles live inside the dung, feeding and reproducing within the pile.
  • Paracoprids: These beetles dig tunnels beneath the manure and pull the dung into their tunnels.

These insects are not picky eaters; they feast on the manure of various herbivores. Some examples of animal feces they prefer include:

  • Cattle
  • Elephants
  • Deer
  • Horses

Some dung beetles are also omnivores. In addition to feeding on feces, their diet may include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Fruits
  • Decaying leaves

You might be wondering why dung beetles consume manure. It’s because animal feces serve as both a food source and a nesting site for their offspring, which helps promote their survival.

In summary, whether they’re rolling balls of dung or digging tunnels, dung beetles play a vital ecological role by recycling nutrients from animal waste back into the soil. Their diet mainly consists of feces, but some species will also consume mushrooms, fruits, and decaying leaves, making them omnivores.

Habitats and Regions

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures that are found across the globe. They have a wide range of habitats, and can be found in various regions, such as deserts, forests, and tropical forests. In this section, we will discuss the different habitats and regions where you can find dung beetles.

Deserts and Forests

Dung beetles can thrive in both dry and wet environments, which means you will find them in deserts and forests alike. These beetles are known to inhabit the Australian outback, where they help maintain soil structure by breaking down animal waste. Similarly, in forests, they contribute to nutrient cycling by processing plant litter and animal dung.

Tropical Forests

Tropical forests are a hotspot for dung beetle activity. These diverse ecosystems offer a multitude of resources for the beetles, enabling them to flourish. In these regions, dung beetles play a vital role in breaking down animal waste and maintaining soil fertility, supporting the overall health of the forest.

Here is a brief comparison of the habitats:

Habitat Location Dung Beetle Role
Desert Australia Soil structure maintenance
Forest North America Nutrient cycling
Tropical Forest South America Soil fertility management

In conclusion, dung beetles are versatile creatures that adapt to varying habitats across the earth. Regardless of their environment, they play a crucial role in promoting soil health by processing organic waste. So, next time you come across a dung beetle, remember the importance of their presence in maintaining our planet’s ecosystems.

Reproductive Behaviour

Dung beetles play a crucial role in the environment and have a unique way of reproducing. Let’s learn more about their reproductive behavior.

When it comes to mating, females and males have distinct roles. To attract a female, a male dung beetle performs courtship rituals such as stroking his antennae and front legs ^(1). Once the pair is formed, they begin the process of creating a brood ball.

A brood ball is made by shaping animal feces into a spherical form. Dung beetles use their strong legs and heads to mold the ball, which serves as a breeding chamber for their offspring ^(2). Inside the brood ball, the female lays her eggs.

To provide a safe environment for the developing larvae, dung beetles construct a brooding ball. This ball is similar to the brood ball, but it is used solely for the protection of the larvae.

Here’s a summary in bullet points:

  • Dung beetles mate in pairs
  • Males perform courtship rituals to attract females
  • They create brood balls to house eggs and brooding balls to protect larvae

By following these behaviors, dung beetles ensure the survival and growth of their offspring in a variety of environments. Remember, these fascinating insects play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. So, next time you see a dung beetle, appreciate its unique contribution to our ecosystem.

Unusual Adaptations

Dung beetles are fascinating creatures with some unique adaptations that help them survive and thrive in their environments. For example, they are exceptionally strong for their size, with some species capable of carrying up to 1,000 times their own weight in dung.

It might surprise you to know that certain dung beetles, like Scarabaeus satyrus and Scarabaeus viettei, have a rather cosmic connection, as they use the Milky Way to orient themselves at night. According to a study published in Current Biology, these beetles can navigate using starlight, helping them to move in straight lines as they roll their dung balls to their desired destinations.

  • Weight: Despite their small size, dung beetles are capable of carrying heavy loads.
  • Milky Way: Some species use the stars for orientation when moving at night.
  • Scarabaeus satyrus and Scarabaeus viettei: These particular dung beetles are known for their celestial navigation skills.

In conclusion, these unusual adaptations allow dung beetles to efficiently perform their ecological roles, improve soil quality, and enhance agricultural productivity. Their incredible strength and celestial navigation skills are wonderful examples of how nature has equipped these insects to thrive in various environments.

Dung Beetles and the Environment

Dung beetles are amazing insects that contribute significantly to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. You’ll find them living in various habitats, but they’re most common around cattle or livestock, as well as in the presence of elephant dung.

These insects are nature’s sanitation workers, removing animal feces, like cow patties, and benefiting both the environment and us. By doing this, they help control the populations of flies and parasites that thrive in dung.

Their strength is truly impressive. They can roll dung balls that are up to 50 times their body weight! On top of that, they exhibit parental care, providing a safe and nutrient-rich environment for their offspring in the dung balls.

Dung beetles play a vital role in nutrient cycling by burying the dung, thus increasing soil fertility. This is especially beneficial during the summer months when the nutrient-rich earth supports lush vegetation growth.

Some interesting features of dung beetles:

  • They have diverse feeding habits, from dwelling in dung piles to tunnelling below them.
  • Their antennae are clubbed and can be fanned open or tightly closed.
  • Fossilized dung balls help us understand the prehistoric environment and the species that existed.

There are different types of dung beetles that provide ecological functions like:

  • Dung removal
  • Transporting dung-derived nitrogen into the soil
  • Supporting microbial processes like ammonification and nitrification
  • Encouraging plant uptake of nutrients
  • Improving herbage growth and botanical composition

So, as you can see, dung beetles are truly a fascinating species that are integral to maintaining a healthy environment. Just remember to appreciate these little creatures and the important work they do!

Dung Beetles and Human Interactions

Dung beetles are known for their impressive strength, being able to roll balls of dung that are up to 50 times their own weight. This unique ability has made them a fascination to humans since ancient times. In fact, the dung beetle is considered one of the strongest animals on the planet, relative to its size.

These beetles play a significant role in agriculture by helping remove animal waste and improving soil quality. By burying and consuming dung, they prevent harmful substances from accumulating on the soil surface. This process not only benefits farmers but also contributes to a healthier ecosystem.

Dung beetles display a marvelous metallic luster on their hard exoskeletons – making them attractive to collectors and enthusiasts. Their beauty also symbolized rebirth and transformation for the ancient Egyptians, who believed the dung beetle represented the sun god Khepri.

Contrary to popular belief, dung beetles do not consume bones or other solid materials. Their diet mainly consists of the nutrient-rich waste of herbivorous animals. Due to their dung-feeding habits, you’re not likely to stumble upon these creatures in urban environments.

In some parts of the world, dung beetles have been known to reduce harmful burning practices by aiding in the decomposition of cattle waste. This, in turn, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and overall environmental impact.

So next time you come across one of these fascinating creatures, remember that they play an essential role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. You can appreciate their beauty, strength, and invaluable role in our global environment.

The Dung Beetle’s Senses

Dung beetles live in various habitats and depend heavily on their senses to navigate their environment. In this section, we will explore how dung beetles use their senses to survive and thrive.

Sense of Smell: One of the dung beetle’s strongest senses is its sense of smell. They can detect the odor of animal feces even from far away. This allows them to find food and breeding sites quickly. It also helps dung beetles detect predators and communicate with other dung beetles.

Color Detection: Dung beetles have compound eyes that enable them to see color. This ability helps them differentiate between various objects and backgrounds in their surroundings. They may utilize color to find appropriate food sources or detect potential mates.

Sun Navigation: Dung beetles use the sun as a primary means of navigation. They possess a unique ability to navigate using the sun’s position in the sky. This is particularly important for dung beetles that roll their dung balls away from the original dung pile to prevent competition with other beetles.

Pain Sensation: While it is difficult to determine if insects like dung beetles actually experience pain, they do exhibit behaviors indicating sensitivity to harmful stimuli. Dung beetles may avoid contact with harmful substances or objects and can also show a defensive response when under attack from predators.

Here’s a comparison table of the dung beetle’s senses:

Sense Function Example Situation
Smell Detect food, breeding sites, predators Locating a new dung pile
Color Differentiate objects & backgrounds Finding food or mates
Sun Navigation & orientation Rolling dung ball away
Pain (Possible) Sensitivity to harmful stimuli Avoiding harmful substances

In summary, the dung beetle’s senses play a crucial role in their survival and reproduction. Their unique abilities to detect smells, colors, and navigate using the sun help them adapt and thrive in their environments.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Dung Beetle: Rainbow Scarab

 

Subject: Beetle Identification
Location: St Augustine, Florida
June 18, 2012 8:56 am
A friend & I were talking when, what appeared to be a large bumble bee, came flying and hovered over the grass in an aread where her dog had just defecated. It landed on the stool and proceeded to break it apart and drag it down into the grass. The beetle was approx. 1 1/4 inches long by 1/2 inch wide and had a black shell behind bulbous silver eyes. The rear had irridescent wings and, I believe, 6 legs. I couldn’t get any real good shots of it because it moved pretty fast and all I had handy was my cell phone which only takes 5mp photos. Can you identify it from such a small amount of information?
Signature: Ray Larsen

Rainbow Scarab and Dung Ball

Hi Ray,
We are very happy to post your photos of a female Rainbow Scarab,
 Phanaeus vindex, forming a dung ball.  Rainbow Scarabs are Dung Beetles, a group found in many parts of the world.  They are especially common in agricultural communities with livestock populations.  Ancient Egyptians observed Dung Beetles rolling a ball of dung and likened the image to the sun, resulting in much Scarab iconography.  Dung Beetles perform an important function of keeping their environment from filling with dung, facilitating the decomposition process.  Once the beetle has a large enough ball of dung, it will be buried and an egg laid on it.  The dung is food for the developing larva.  Some species of Dung Beetles work as a pair to collect the dung, so occasionally two beetles will be seen rolling a ball.  The male Rainbow Scarab has a large horn and is an altogether attractive beetle.

Rainbow Scarab with Dung Ball

 

Letter 2 – Dung Beetle from Afghanistan

 

Subject: Big heavy afghan beetle
Location: Central Northern Afghanistan
June 1, 2017 7:18 pm
Hello,
Having trouble identifying this big guy. Found in northern Afghanistan (Mazar-i-Sharif) Little larger than the size of a quarter. Slow, clunky walking pattern. Can easily flip himself back upright from being on his back. After being stuck in a box would not open his shell to fly so possibly ground beetle.
Thanks!
Signature: Bill

Dung Beetle

Dear Bill,
This is a Dung Beetle, and though we have not had any luck identifying your Afghan individual, we can tell you that Dung Beetles are found in many parts of the world.  Dung Beetles locate fresh animal droppings and shape it into a ball, rolling it along the ground until they locate a suitable burrow.  Dung Beetles lay eggs upon the fresh dung which serves as food for the developing larva.  Dung Beetles are the inspiration for Egyptian Scarab Beetles that adorn jewelry and hieroglyphics, and they were alleged to move the sun across the sky.  See Egypt About for more information.  We are post-dating your submission to go live to our site later in the month while our editorial staff is on holiday.

Letter 3 – Dung Beetle, AKA Lousy Watchman from England

 

Please identify this bug thanks!
Location: Wiltshire, England.
October 13, 2011 8:25 am
Dear Mr Bugman
I found this bug in my greenhouse today – it was trying to escape from a plastic plant module – no idea how it got in there. It was about 3cm long. When I tipped it out into the garden, it fell on its back and the underneath was an irridescent blue. I live in Wiltshire. Would love to know what it is, and whether I did the right thing in letting it go!
Signature: Karen

Lousy Watchman

Hi KAren,
We just learned some fascinating information.  This is a Dung Beetle, and upon doing the research on species from the UK, we learned on the Down Garden Services website that this is a Common Dor Beetle or Lousy Watchman in the genus
Geotrupes.  According to the Down Garden Services site:  “Dung beetles are important because they get rid of a lot of animal faeces, breaking it down and incorporating it into the soil, so helping in the recycling of nutrients. This also makes the world a less smelly place to live in and reduces the numbers of other insects like flies which would otherwise breed in it.  In the UK dung beetles utilise the dung of cows, horses, rabbits, deer and sheep, eg. a cow produces about 7 tons of dung per year. The Common Dor Beetle, Geotrupes stercorarius, is known as a ‘tunneller’, usually found in cow dung; they make tunnels below the dung. They are good at flight and a single beetle flies around until it finds a fresh cow pad. Once a pair have got together they dig a tunnel beneath the pad and drag as much dung as they can down into it. The females normally stay in the burrow, using their long broad legs to build numerous galleries in the soil. Dung is deposited in each gallery and an egg is laid in the dung, providing the emerging grub with nourishment. The males provide the dung pellets for the female to bury. Often they have a colony of mites living on them hence the name Lousy Watchman.”   The Wild About Britain website has a nice photo of the blue undersides.

Dear Daniel
You are amazing! Thank you so much, we are all thrilled that you identified our bug.
Can’t thank you enough!
Karen.

Letter 4 – Dung Beetle from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Burying Beetle
Location: Costa Rica
March 22, 2016 3:06 pm
I think this is a burying beetle, I like its yellow front feet. Can you tell me anything about it.
Signature: P

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear P,
We believe this is a Dung Beetle and not a Burying Beetle.  What you have mistaken for a yellow foot is actually the antenna.  We found a Dung Beetle with yellow antennae from Costa Rica pictured on DreamsTime.

Letter 5 – Dung Beetle from England

 

Subject:  Identify this bug please
Geographic location of the bug:  Hatfield hertfordshire England. My living room!!!
Date: 07/23/2018
Time: 05:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi this came flying into my living room tonight kept crashing into things it was so big. The noises when it crashed was outrageous! Never seen anything like this an especially not flying!
How you want your letter signed:  Alisha

Dung Beetle

Dear Alisha,
This is a Dung Beetle.  According to Down Garden Services:  “Most dung beetles are small and nocturnal, but the larger Common Dor Beetles (
Geotrupes spp.) and the Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus) are more easily seen. They are members of the Family Scarabaeidae.  Dung beetles are important because they get rid of a lot of animal faeces, breaking it down and incorporating it into the soil, so helping in the recycling of nutrients. This also makes the world a less smelly place to live in and reduces the numbers of other insects like flies which would otherwise breed in it.”  You can report your sighting to the Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project or DUMP.

Letter 6 – Dung Beetle from Panama

 

Scarab Beetle Panama
Location: 1750mt, Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Western Panama
February 16, 2012 5:54 pm
This blue beetle was found in broad daylight in an open area surrounded by forest. Sorry about lousy focussing. Note yellow antennae. Any ideas?
Signature: William Adsett

Dung Beetle

Dear William,
In our opinion, this looks like a Dung Beetle in the Scarab subfamily Scarabaeinae, but we have not had any luck matching your photo to a species.  You can see many similar looking North American species on BugGuide.

Dung Beetle

We decided to post all three of your images since each shows slightly different features and they may cumulatively aid in a proper identification.

Dung Beetle

Daniel
Thanks for your help. If I ever do find out exactly what it is, I’ll let you know.
Regards
Bill Adsett

 

Letter 7 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Dung beetle
Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 8:28 AM
Photographed in the Langeberg Range in South Africa in montane fynbos ecosystem. Photo is attached
Brett
Langeberg Range in South Africa

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hi Brett,
On a good day, we have time to post a few letters before work and possibly a few more after work. We seem to keep choosing your letters because you have such great subject lines. Thanks for enlightening our readership on the appearance of a South African Dung Beetle.

Uh oh, I’m not sure how to interpret this but it sounds like you’re mad
at me and saying – gee, it’s a dung beetle. Maybe (hopefully) I’m
misreading your response. I didn’t mean to offend by submitting a number
of items at once. I’m a nature photographer and I always try to write
accurate and specific IDs for the species I photograph. There are a
number if very similar looking dung bettles here and I couldn’t figure
out what it was. Sorry if I goofed somehow. I do appreciate the help
very much.
Brett

My my no Brett.  You have misread the intent in the short response.
Seriously, when choosing letters, welook at interesting subject lines
since we can’t read them all.  Your letters have had such interesting
subject lines that wechose many of them to read and post.  As you may realize, South Africa does not have many insect sources available on the
internet, so we are unable to identify the exact species.  Please don’t
get the wrong impression. Wecould add general information on
the posting about Dung Beetles. Your submissions have been perfect with only one image per email.  You would be surprised at the number of requests we receive that just say identify our bugs with 10 different images attached.
Have a wonderful day.

Great, I get stressed out when I think people are mad at me. I do
really appreciate the help. I’ll post a gallery for you sometime of all
of the very strange insects I’ve photographed in tropical rainforests
(all are ID’ed already). I’ve got a lot of stuff that you guys would
probably find very interesting. I’ve done a lot of shooting in Costa
Rica and some in the Peruvian Amazon. I did the official photo book on
the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, where I think they
estimate they have 25,000 insects. I have some crazy stuff from there.
I’m in South Africa now photographing baboons.
Thanks,
Brett

Letter 8 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Dung Beetle
January 10, 2010
Fairly large dungbeetle that flew into the lodge at knight, Gess it to be an Elephant Dung Dungbeetle
Natie le Roux
Ladysmith, Kwazulu Natal, RSA

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hello Natie,
Thanks for sending us your photo of a Dung Beetle.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to identify the species.

Letter 9 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Subject: Please help to identify this beetle
Location: Farm Malmesbury Western Cape South Africa
November 20, 2012 9:57 am
Hi There!
My name is Marzanne, I live in Western Cape South Africa on a farm. This morning before work i stepped outside and saw this beetle. I first thought that it was a deathwatch beetle as it played dead when i touched it but then it made a screeching sound too.
Google is not giving me alot of awnsers can you please help? Thank you.
Kind Regards
Marzanne

Dung Beetle we believe

Hi Marzanne,
This is some species of Scarab Beetle, and we believe it is most likely a Dung Beetle.  We will be leaving the office for several days for the Thanksgiving Holiday and we are preparing your submission to post live to our site later in the week.  It somewhat resembles the image on Zimbabwe Absurdity which states:  “There are no less than 17 species of dung beetles listed in my Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Just goes to show how useful s**t can be! ”  Dung Beetles often work singly or in pairs to roll a ball of fresh animal dung that is used to lay an egg.

Letter 10 – Dung Beetle from Kenya

 

Subject: Dung Beetle
Location: Laikipia Air Base, Nanyuki, Kenya
October 27, 2016 4:27 am
Hi, Bugman.
Came across this little guy stranded on his (her?) back being attacked by ants in Nanyuki, Kenya. After flipping him over, he seemed determined to either stamp on the ants or crush them with his head. Retribution was his!
Signature: Some British Squaddie

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear British Squaddie,
Your Dung Beetle appears to be
Scarabaeus sacer if this image on Alamy is correctly identified.

Thank you for the reply.
Chris Blakey.

Letter 11 – Dung Beetle from Namibia

 

Subject: Coleoptera in Namibia
Location: Namibia
February 1, 2015 4:11 am
This insect was in the namib desert in Namibia :
https://goo.gl/maps/2OQMc
Thanks for your research !
Signature: A traveler

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear A traveler,
This is a Dung Beetle, and it resembles this image of
Pachysoma rodriguesi that is pictured on FlickR, but we cannot say for certain if the species is correct.  Because of the large numbers of large, grazing herd animals in Africa, there are many Dung Beetles which gather fresh dung into a ball that is rolled across the terrain until the Dung Beetle finds an appropriate place to dig a nest.  An egg is laid on the Dung Ball and the dung provides food for the developing larva.  Dung Beetles are the inspiration for the Egyptian Scarab Beetles that are often pictured with orbs signifying the sun. 

Letter 12 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Rhino Beetle
Location:  Kruger national Park, South Africa
February 2014
Thought I’d send my prize photo of a rhino beetle.   It was on the same wall as the Southern Cat’s-Eyed Emperor moth, but on a different night.  I was told by a guide that I am very lucky to have seen this beetle.   Trying to photograph it at night under CFLs was a trick.
Thanks again for IDing the moth.
Jeanne

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hi Jeanne,
We believe this is a Dung Beetle, not a Rhino Beetle.  Both are classified as Scarab Beetles.  It might be
Copris elphener which is pictured on PHotograph s from South Africa.

Oh, rats!   I see what you mean.   But when I Googled rhino beetle, I saw photos identical to mine.   Oh,well, I find dung beetles fascinating.

Letter 13 – Dung Beetle with Dung Ball and Fanmail

 

Dung Beetle
Hi there.
We really enjoy your web site. I know you must get scads of pics of the common dung beetle, but I just wanted to share this one with you because he was such an industrious little guy and so determined. And also because his dung ball was absolutely perfectly round! A beautiful dung ball if there indeed can be such a thing. He was pushing this thing uphill on my daughter’s driveway and when I snapped this shot, (he was definitely between a rock and a hard place!). I did NOT place the big rock in front of his dung ball, poor thing just ended up there. I guess that is what happens when you are pushing things around backwards and not looking where you are going. Enjoy!
Marti Bailey
Weatherford, Texas
P.S. I went back to check on him a few minutes later and he was gone. I guess he finally found his destination. Whew! What a treck!

Hi Marti,
If memory serves us correctly, this is the only photo we have ever received of a Dung Beetle with a Dung Ball.

Fanmail Comment (07/29/2007)
Dear Daniel and Lisa Anne,
I wrote you a fan mail awhile back – I still look at your site every day. Today I was utterly delighted to see a photo of a dung beetle rolling its perfectly round dung ball. My father is an acarologist specializing in phoretic mites partial to dung beetles. 20 years ago almost to the day, I traveled with my father to the magnificent Camargue Natural Reserve in southern France to observe dung beetles rolling those magnificent balls. Somewhere I have a hilarious photo that my mother took of my father taking a photo of a little beetle and ball. I wish I had it to send to you. But alas, you are busy. Sorry for the blather, I was just so happy to see that photo. Yours for eternity 🙂
Georgia

Letter 14 – Dung Beetles

 

What’s This Bug?
Can you please tell me what kind of bug this is? Location: Katy, TX (west houston) Terrain: Cow fields, wet. Rain: Rained Terribly hard for a few days and these guys appeared. Thanks for your help,
Eric

too blurry to be certain. might be rain beetles.

Well, I’ve gone and bought a new camera. There were still some of these guys from the big rain back in June 06 left in my fluorescent light covers. The photos turned out great. Maybe now you can help. Thanks,
Eric

Hi again Eric,
We thought these might be Rain Beetles, but Eric Eaton has set us straight. Here is his identification: ” The scarab beetles from Texas are dung beetles in the genus Onthophagus, maybe O. gazella, an introduced species from Africa. Several species have been introduced in fact. Eric”

Letter 15 – Dung Beetles in Kuwait

 

Dung Beetles (group) in Kuwait
Hi,
I was out in the desert this morning and came across this group of dung beetles during a mid morning meal. Thought you might like the picture for your site.
Chris in Kuwait

Hi Chris,
Thank you so much for sending us your wonderful images of Dung Beetles, the source of inspiration of the iconic Egyptian scarab carvings.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Dung Beetle: Rainbow Scarab

 

Subject: Beetle Identification
Location: St Augustine, Florida
June 18, 2012 8:56 am
A friend & I were talking when, what appeared to be a large bumble bee, came flying and hovered over the grass in an aread where her dog had just defecated. It landed on the stool and proceeded to break it apart and drag it down into the grass. The beetle was approx. 1 1/4 inches long by 1/2 inch wide and had a black shell behind bulbous silver eyes. The rear had irridescent wings and, I believe, 6 legs. I couldn’t get any real good shots of it because it moved pretty fast and all I had handy was my cell phone which only takes 5mp photos. Can you identify it from such a small amount of information?
Signature: Ray Larsen

Rainbow Scarab and Dung Ball

Hi Ray,
We are very happy to post your photos of a female Rainbow Scarab,
 Phanaeus vindex, forming a dung ball.  Rainbow Scarabs are Dung Beetles, a group found in many parts of the world.  They are especially common in agricultural communities with livestock populations.  Ancient Egyptians observed Dung Beetles rolling a ball of dung and likened the image to the sun, resulting in much Scarab iconography.  Dung Beetles perform an important function of keeping their environment from filling with dung, facilitating the decomposition process.  Once the beetle has a large enough ball of dung, it will be buried and an egg laid on it.  The dung is food for the developing larva.  Some species of Dung Beetles work as a pair to collect the dung, so occasionally two beetles will be seen rolling a ball.  The male Rainbow Scarab has a large horn and is an altogether attractive beetle.

Rainbow Scarab with Dung Ball

 

Letter 2 – Dung Beetle from Afghanistan

 

Subject: Big heavy afghan beetle
Location: Central Northern Afghanistan
June 1, 2017 7:18 pm
Hello,
Having trouble identifying this big guy. Found in northern Afghanistan (Mazar-i-Sharif) Little larger than the size of a quarter. Slow, clunky walking pattern. Can easily flip himself back upright from being on his back. After being stuck in a box would not open his shell to fly so possibly ground beetle.
Thanks!
Signature: Bill

Dung Beetle

Dear Bill,
This is a Dung Beetle, and though we have not had any luck identifying your Afghan individual, we can tell you that Dung Beetles are found in many parts of the world.  Dung Beetles locate fresh animal droppings and shape it into a ball, rolling it along the ground until they locate a suitable burrow.  Dung Beetles lay eggs upon the fresh dung which serves as food for the developing larva.  Dung Beetles are the inspiration for Egyptian Scarab Beetles that adorn jewelry and hieroglyphics, and they were alleged to move the sun across the sky.  See Egypt About for more information.  We are post-dating your submission to go live to our site later in the month while our editorial staff is on holiday.

Letter 3 – Dung Beetle, AKA Lousy Watchman from England

 

Please identify this bug thanks!
Location: Wiltshire, England.
October 13, 2011 8:25 am
Dear Mr Bugman
I found this bug in my greenhouse today – it was trying to escape from a plastic plant module – no idea how it got in there. It was about 3cm long. When I tipped it out into the garden, it fell on its back and the underneath was an irridescent blue. I live in Wiltshire. Would love to know what it is, and whether I did the right thing in letting it go!
Signature: Karen

Lousy Watchman

Hi KAren,
We just learned some fascinating information.  This is a Dung Beetle, and upon doing the research on species from the UK, we learned on the Down Garden Services website that this is a Common Dor Beetle or Lousy Watchman in the genus
Geotrupes.  According to the Down Garden Services site:  “Dung beetles are important because they get rid of a lot of animal faeces, breaking it down and incorporating it into the soil, so helping in the recycling of nutrients. This also makes the world a less smelly place to live in and reduces the numbers of other insects like flies which would otherwise breed in it.  In the UK dung beetles utilise the dung of cows, horses, rabbits, deer and sheep, eg. a cow produces about 7 tons of dung per year. The Common Dor Beetle, Geotrupes stercorarius, is known as a ‘tunneller’, usually found in cow dung; they make tunnels below the dung. They are good at flight and a single beetle flies around until it finds a fresh cow pad. Once a pair have got together they dig a tunnel beneath the pad and drag as much dung as they can down into it. The females normally stay in the burrow, using their long broad legs to build numerous galleries in the soil. Dung is deposited in each gallery and an egg is laid in the dung, providing the emerging grub with nourishment. The males provide the dung pellets for the female to bury. Often they have a colony of mites living on them hence the name Lousy Watchman.”   The Wild About Britain website has a nice photo of the blue undersides.

Dear Daniel
You are amazing! Thank you so much, we are all thrilled that you identified our bug.
Can’t thank you enough!
Karen.

Letter 4 – Dung Beetle from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Burying Beetle
Location: Costa Rica
March 22, 2016 3:06 pm
I think this is a burying beetle, I like its yellow front feet. Can you tell me anything about it.
Signature: P

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear P,
We believe this is a Dung Beetle and not a Burying Beetle.  What you have mistaken for a yellow foot is actually the antenna.  We found a Dung Beetle with yellow antennae from Costa Rica pictured on DreamsTime.

Letter 5 – Dung Beetle from England

 

Subject:  Identify this bug please
Geographic location of the bug:  Hatfield hertfordshire England. My living room!!!
Date: 07/23/2018
Time: 05:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi this came flying into my living room tonight kept crashing into things it was so big. The noises when it crashed was outrageous! Never seen anything like this an especially not flying!
How you want your letter signed:  Alisha

Dung Beetle

Dear Alisha,
This is a Dung Beetle.  According to Down Garden Services:  “Most dung beetles are small and nocturnal, but the larger Common Dor Beetles (
Geotrupes spp.) and the Minotaur Beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus) are more easily seen. They are members of the Family Scarabaeidae.  Dung beetles are important because they get rid of a lot of animal faeces, breaking it down and incorporating it into the soil, so helping in the recycling of nutrients. This also makes the world a less smelly place to live in and reduces the numbers of other insects like flies which would otherwise breed in it.”  You can report your sighting to the Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project or DUMP.

Letter 6 – Dung Beetle from Panama

 

Scarab Beetle Panama
Location: 1750mt, Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca, Western Panama
February 16, 2012 5:54 pm
This blue beetle was found in broad daylight in an open area surrounded by forest. Sorry about lousy focussing. Note yellow antennae. Any ideas?
Signature: William Adsett

Dung Beetle

Dear William,
In our opinion, this looks like a Dung Beetle in the Scarab subfamily Scarabaeinae, but we have not had any luck matching your photo to a species.  You can see many similar looking North American species on BugGuide.

Dung Beetle

We decided to post all three of your images since each shows slightly different features and they may cumulatively aid in a proper identification.

Dung Beetle

Daniel
Thanks for your help. If I ever do find out exactly what it is, I’ll let you know.
Regards
Bill Adsett

 

Letter 7 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Dung beetle
Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 8:28 AM
Photographed in the Langeberg Range in South Africa in montane fynbos ecosystem. Photo is attached
Brett
Langeberg Range in South Africa

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hi Brett,
On a good day, we have time to post a few letters before work and possibly a few more after work. We seem to keep choosing your letters because you have such great subject lines. Thanks for enlightening our readership on the appearance of a South African Dung Beetle.

Uh oh, I’m not sure how to interpret this but it sounds like you’re mad
at me and saying – gee, it’s a dung beetle. Maybe (hopefully) I’m
misreading your response. I didn’t mean to offend by submitting a number
of items at once. I’m a nature photographer and I always try to write
accurate and specific IDs for the species I photograph. There are a
number if very similar looking dung bettles here and I couldn’t figure
out what it was. Sorry if I goofed somehow. I do appreciate the help
very much.
Brett

My my no Brett.  You have misread the intent in the short response.
Seriously, when choosing letters, welook at interesting subject lines
since we can’t read them all.  Your letters have had such interesting
subject lines that wechose many of them to read and post.  As you may realize, South Africa does not have many insect sources available on the
internet, so we are unable to identify the exact species.  Please don’t
get the wrong impression. Wecould add general information on
the posting about Dung Beetles. Your submissions have been perfect with only one image per email.  You would be surprised at the number of requests we receive that just say identify our bugs with 10 different images attached.
Have a wonderful day.

Great, I get stressed out when I think people are mad at me. I do
really appreciate the help. I’ll post a gallery for you sometime of all
of the very strange insects I’ve photographed in tropical rainforests
(all are ID’ed already). I’ve got a lot of stuff that you guys would
probably find very interesting. I’ve done a lot of shooting in Costa
Rica and some in the Peruvian Amazon. I did the official photo book on
the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, where I think they
estimate they have 25,000 insects. I have some crazy stuff from there.
I’m in South Africa now photographing baboons.
Thanks,
Brett

Letter 8 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Dung Beetle
January 10, 2010
Fairly large dungbeetle that flew into the lodge at knight, Gess it to be an Elephant Dung Dungbeetle
Natie le Roux
Ladysmith, Kwazulu Natal, RSA

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hello Natie,
Thanks for sending us your photo of a Dung Beetle.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to identify the species.

Letter 9 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Subject: Please help to identify this beetle
Location: Farm Malmesbury Western Cape South Africa
November 20, 2012 9:57 am
Hi There!
My name is Marzanne, I live in Western Cape South Africa on a farm. This morning before work i stepped outside and saw this beetle. I first thought that it was a deathwatch beetle as it played dead when i touched it but then it made a screeching sound too.
Google is not giving me alot of awnsers can you please help? Thank you.
Kind Regards
Marzanne

Dung Beetle we believe

Hi Marzanne,
This is some species of Scarab Beetle, and we believe it is most likely a Dung Beetle.  We will be leaving the office for several days for the Thanksgiving Holiday and we are preparing your submission to post live to our site later in the week.  It somewhat resembles the image on Zimbabwe Absurdity which states:  “There are no less than 17 species of dung beetles listed in my Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Just goes to show how useful s**t can be! ”  Dung Beetles often work singly or in pairs to roll a ball of fresh animal dung that is used to lay an egg.

Letter 10 – Dung Beetle from Kenya

 

Subject: Dung Beetle
Location: Laikipia Air Base, Nanyuki, Kenya
October 27, 2016 4:27 am
Hi, Bugman.
Came across this little guy stranded on his (her?) back being attacked by ants in Nanyuki, Kenya. After flipping him over, he seemed determined to either stamp on the ants or crush them with his head. Retribution was his!
Signature: Some British Squaddie

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear British Squaddie,
Your Dung Beetle appears to be
Scarabaeus sacer if this image on Alamy is correctly identified.

Thank you for the reply.
Chris Blakey.

Letter 11 – Dung Beetle from Namibia

 

Subject: Coleoptera in Namibia
Location: Namibia
February 1, 2015 4:11 am
This insect was in the namib desert in Namibia :
https://goo.gl/maps/2OQMc
Thanks for your research !
Signature: A traveler

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Dear A traveler,
This is a Dung Beetle, and it resembles this image of
Pachysoma rodriguesi that is pictured on FlickR, but we cannot say for certain if the species is correct.  Because of the large numbers of large, grazing herd animals in Africa, there are many Dung Beetles which gather fresh dung into a ball that is rolled across the terrain until the Dung Beetle finds an appropriate place to dig a nest.  An egg is laid on the Dung Ball and the dung provides food for the developing larva.  Dung Beetles are the inspiration for the Egyptian Scarab Beetles that are often pictured with orbs signifying the sun. 

Letter 12 – Dung Beetle from South Africa

 

Rhino Beetle
Location:  Kruger national Park, South Africa
February 2014
Thought I’d send my prize photo of a rhino beetle.   It was on the same wall as the Southern Cat’s-Eyed Emperor moth, but on a different night.  I was told by a guide that I am very lucky to have seen this beetle.   Trying to photograph it at night under CFLs was a trick.
Thanks again for IDing the moth.
Jeanne

Dung Beetle
Dung Beetle

Hi Jeanne,
We believe this is a Dung Beetle, not a Rhino Beetle.  Both are classified as Scarab Beetles.  It might be
Copris elphener which is pictured on PHotograph s from South Africa.

Oh, rats!   I see what you mean.   But when I Googled rhino beetle, I saw photos identical to mine.   Oh,well, I find dung beetles fascinating.

Letter 13 – Dung Beetle with Dung Ball and Fanmail

 

Dung Beetle
Hi there.
We really enjoy your web site. I know you must get scads of pics of the common dung beetle, but I just wanted to share this one with you because he was such an industrious little guy and so determined. And also because his dung ball was absolutely perfectly round! A beautiful dung ball if there indeed can be such a thing. He was pushing this thing uphill on my daughter’s driveway and when I snapped this shot, (he was definitely between a rock and a hard place!). I did NOT place the big rock in front of his dung ball, poor thing just ended up there. I guess that is what happens when you are pushing things around backwards and not looking where you are going. Enjoy!
Marti Bailey
Weatherford, Texas
P.S. I went back to check on him a few minutes later and he was gone. I guess he finally found his destination. Whew! What a treck!

Hi Marti,
If memory serves us correctly, this is the only photo we have ever received of a Dung Beetle with a Dung Ball.

Fanmail Comment (07/29/2007)
Dear Daniel and Lisa Anne,
I wrote you a fan mail awhile back – I still look at your site every day. Today I was utterly delighted to see a photo of a dung beetle rolling its perfectly round dung ball. My father is an acarologist specializing in phoretic mites partial to dung beetles. 20 years ago almost to the day, I traveled with my father to the magnificent Camargue Natural Reserve in southern France to observe dung beetles rolling those magnificent balls. Somewhere I have a hilarious photo that my mother took of my father taking a photo of a little beetle and ball. I wish I had it to send to you. But alas, you are busy. Sorry for the blather, I was just so happy to see that photo. Yours for eternity 🙂
Georgia

Letter 14 – Dung Beetles

 

What’s This Bug?
Can you please tell me what kind of bug this is? Location: Katy, TX (west houston) Terrain: Cow fields, wet. Rain: Rained Terribly hard for a few days and these guys appeared. Thanks for your help,
Eric

too blurry to be certain. might be rain beetles.

Well, I’ve gone and bought a new camera. There were still some of these guys from the big rain back in June 06 left in my fluorescent light covers. The photos turned out great. Maybe now you can help. Thanks,
Eric

Hi again Eric,
We thought these might be Rain Beetles, but Eric Eaton has set us straight. Here is his identification: ” The scarab beetles from Texas are dung beetles in the genus Onthophagus, maybe O. gazella, an introduced species from Africa. Several species have been introduced in fact. Eric”

Letter 15 – Dung Beetles in Kuwait

 

Dung Beetles (group) in Kuwait
Hi,
I was out in the desert this morning and came across this group of dung beetles during a mid morning meal. Thought you might like the picture for your site.
Chris in Kuwait

Hi Chris,
Thank you so much for sending us your wonderful images of Dung Beetles, the source of inspiration of the iconic Egyptian scarab carvings.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts

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