Dung Beetle Facts

A Must-read! 9 Dung Beetle Facts That Are Simply Phenomenal

Some facts about the dung beetle, which you must have never heard before, intended to introduce you to an insect species which boasts of being one of the strongest insects on the planet. With somewhere around 7000 species of dung beetles on the planet, the facts about them are bound to be diverse and interesting.
AnimalSake Staff
Last Updated: Dec 9, 2017
Kingdom Animalia is full of fascinating creatures; each of which boasts of something amazing about themselves. While some are truly fascinating, others are pretty unusual - unusual to an extent wherein they just leave you dumbfounded. Scavenging is not an uncommon practice in animal kingdom, but can you imagine a species feeding on the feces of other animals with whom it shares its habitat? Can you imagine a species which roughly measures an inch in length, but has the strength to lift or pull something which is several times heavier than its own weight? The species that we are talking about here is the dung beetle - also known as the scarab beetle, which derives its common name from the uncommon habit of feeding on feces (dung) of other species.

Interesting Facts about Dung Beetles

The term 'dung beetle' refers to all those species of beetles which are dependent on feces or dung of animals for food and/or shelter. There exist more than 7000 species of dung beetles on the planet, which are found on all the continents of the world except for Antarctica. While some of these beetles are as small as 1 mm, others can grow on to attain a length of 2.4 inches - decent enough for an insect. Dung beetle habitat - spanning across deserts, grasslands, forests, etc. is one of the biggest habitats in kingdom Animalia. Given below are more of such dung beetle facts which will help you get a better picture of this species.
  • As we mentioned earlier, more than 7000 species of dung beetles are found on the planet. While most of these dung beetles belong to the Scarabaeinae and Aphodiinae subfamilies, some species which belong to the Geotrupidae subfamily of insects are also considered dung beetles.
  • Dung beetles don't eat or drink anything else but survive on feces or dung, as feeding on the same gives them all the nutrients that they require. However, there do exist some species of dung beetles which feed on decaying leaves and other plant matter, when they are not feeding on dung.
  • As far as their dietary choice is concerned, most of these beetles prefer to feed on the dung of herbivorous animals in their native habitat. Very few species of beetles feed on the dung of carnivorous animals.
  • There exist three types of dung beetles - the first type comprises the ones who roll dungs into spherical balls and take it to their dwelling (rollers), the second type comprises ones who bury the dung at the site where they find it by making tunnels (tunnelers) and the last group which makes dung itself at their home (dwellers).
  • Dung beetles are armed with wings - which help them fly over a considerable distance, and three pairs of legs which they use to roll the dung balls or dig tunnels.
  • The dung beetles have the ability to carry things which are 50 times their own weight which makes them strong contenders for the title of strongest insect species on the planet.
  • These insects have a lifespan of 3 - 5 years on an average depending on which specific species is taken into consideration. They usually lead a solitary life with the exception of mating season when you get to see them in pairs.
  • The African dung beetle is known for its amazing ability to navigate by polarization patterns in moonlight.
  • The fossils of dung beetles suggest that they have evolved recently - somewhere around 40 million years now, thus making them one of the most recently evolved beetle types on the planet.
Dung beetles have an important place in mythology, especially that of Egypt wherein the Egyptian scarab beetle was considered sacred. Ancient Egyptians believed that it was a giant dung beetle which kept the world revolving as these insects revolve the dung balls today. Similarly, some tribes in South America believe that the first human being was carved by a dung beetle.

While the fact that dung beetles feed on feces may seem repelling, this very act of this species has an important role to play in maintaining a balance in the Earth's ecosystem. These insects act as natural recyclers and help in recycling the nutrients and adding them back to the soil. More importantly, they also clean up animal waste in the surroundings - which would otherwise attract insects with the tendency to spread diseases and cause harm to other species. Yet another benefit of this beetle species revolves around the fact that they help in dispersing seeds around and promote the growth of plants when they roll dung balls from one place to another. All these benefits of dung beetles show how important they are for the ecosystem, and citing this very importance they have been introduced in various countries to assist in agriculture and allied activities.