Dung Beetles

I’ve recently been coming across dung beetles in the house and the garden on Fairview, which is a great sign for our estates’ ecosystem. 

Dung beetles are captivating creatures that play a pivotal role in the ecosystem. They are members of the superfamily Scarabaeoidea and are primarily recognised for their habit of consuming and repurposing dung (animal faeces) for different functions. Despite their diverse appearances, ranging in shapes, sizes, and hues, they collectively serve a vital ecological function of breaking down organic material, especially dung.

As the name suggests, they have developed impressive skills for finding, handling, and making use of dung. They fulfil an essential function in ecosystems by recycling nutrients, enhancing soil quality, and controlling pest and parasite populations. With thousands of species distributed worldwide, dung beetles inhabit a wide range of environments, from forests and grasslands to deserts.

Dung beetles exhibit a wide range of sizes, from a few millimetres to several centimetres in length. They generally have robust, rounded bodies and strong legs adapted for digging. Their colouration varies by species, ranging from black or brown to metallic hues.

There are three main groups of Dung beetles, based on their behaviour.

  • Rollers: These beetles shape dung into balls and roll them away from the pile to bury them. They use these buried balls as a food source and as a place to lay their eggs.
  • Tunnellers: These beetles dig tunnels or burrows directly beneath or near the dung pile, transporting the dung into these tunnels where it is buried and used as a food source and nesting material. Like rollers, tunnellers use the buried dung to nourish their larvae. The tunnels offer a safe and nutrient-rich environment for the larvae to develop.
  • Dwellers: These beetles live and reproduce within the dung pile itself. They do not move the dung but stay inside it, feeding and laying their eggs there. The larvae develop within the dung pile, directly consuming the dung as they grow.

There are many reasons why these beetles are so important. By burying dung, these beetles help aerate the soil, enhancing its structure and fertility. They are essential for nutrient cycling, breaking down animal faeces and enriching the soil with organic matter and nutrients. Dung beetles reduce breeding grounds for pests like flies by removing dung from the surface, preventing these pests from laying their eggs there.

Next time you spot a dung beetle, take a moment to watch this fascinating little creature in action!