Please email or share this article!

11 Interesting Facts About Dung Beetles

Dung beetles are one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet! Even though feeding on feces is disgusting, these tiny insects gain strength and nourishment from it and contribute to the ecosystem in various ways. 

Before you wrinkle your nose and feel disgusted by dung beetles, make sure you read through this article to learn more about them and the role they play in the food chain and ecosystem! Our article will walk you through some basic information on dung beetles, followed by a list of amazing facts.

Also Read: Beetle Facts For Kids 

Let’s get right to it!  

11 Interesting Facts About Dung Beetles

Basic Dung Beetle Facts

Name 

The dung beetle is also known as a tumblebug or a dung chafer. 

Scientific Classification

The scientific classification of the dung beetle is as follows: 

  • Kingdom: Animalia 
  • Phylum: Arthropoda 
  • Class: Insecta 
  • Order: Coleoptera
  • Family: Scarabaeidae
  • Superfamily: Scarabaeoidea

Latin Name

The dung beetle’s Latin name is Scarabaeidae

Appearance (physical characteristics) 

Dung Beetles - Appearance

Dung beetles have a black outer shell and short wings. Their wings have a cover called elytra, which means that a hard covering protects their wings. Some dung beetles have a giant horn on top of their heads. They also have spurs on their backs, which are a spinelike structure that helps them to roll balls of dung. 

Size and Weight

The average dung beetle is around five to 30 millimeters long and can weigh up to 99 grams.  

Habitat and Range

Dung beetles - Habitat and Range

Dung beetles can live in many different habitats. These include grasslands, savannahs, forests, and deserts. While they can survive in diverse landscapes, dung beetles do not respond well to dry and cold weather. One can find dung beetles everywhere in the world, except for Alaska. 

Diet

Dung beetles eat the dung of all types of omnivores and herbivores. It’s important to note that while the majority of their diets consist of dung from animals, they also eat leaves that are in the process of decaying, fruits, and mushrooms. Dung beetles in some parts of the world also eat ants and millipedes. They do not drink water because they get nutrition and hydration from the dung they consume. 

Life Expectancy

Dung beetles live for up to three years.  

11 Interesting Dung Beetle Facts 

Here’s a list of interesting facts about dung beetles! 

Dung beetles play an essential role in the ecosystem. 

Dung beetles play an essential role in the ecosystem

Even though it might seem like these insects only eat animal feces, it’s important to note that they contribute to forests and agricultural practices in many ways. For example, they help in seed dispersal. When a dung beetle eats animal dung, seeds from fruits are often present in the dung, allowing the beetle to move it around and dispose of the seeds in fertile soil. Dung beetles also help improve the structure of the soil while assisting farmers in recycling nutrients in the soil. 

Also Read: Must-Read Ecosystem Facts For Kids

Dung beetles are used to cure diseases. 

While Traditional Chinese Medicine originated in China, TCM has become increasingly popular all over the world. The dried dung beetle is used to cure various ailments and can cure more than ten diseases. 

Dung beetles have a powerful sense of smell. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to watch dung beetles at work, you’ve probably noticed how quickly the beetles arrive at an area with fresh dung. This is because they have an incredibly powerful sense of smell that lets them know that there is new dung nearby to eat and use. 

Dung beetles are often classified into three different categories. 

Even though dung beetles share the common goal of consuming feces, they are generally divided into three different categories based on the functions that they perform. They are classified into Dwellers, Rollers, and Tunnelers.

Dung beetles are often classified into three different categories
  • Dwellers: the dwellers live inside the piles of dung. 
  • Rollers: the rollers roll small pieces of dung into bigger balls; these balls are often five times the size of the dung beetle itself. 
  • Tunnelers: the tunneling dung beetles take the rolled ball of dung and bury it underneath a soft patch of soil. 

Dung beetles feed their offspring feces.

Dung beetles feed their offspring feces.

Once a pair of male and female dung beetles have rolled a ball of dung and buried it underground, they typically mate underground as well. After they finish mating, the female will lay eggs inside a brooding ball of dung. Each individual egg will get its own portion of dung, which means that when the eggs hatch and the beetle larvae are born, they are supplied with a healthy amount of food. 

Dung beetles were considered sacred in ancient Egypt. 

Many cultures considered different types of animals and insects to be sacred, and the Egyptians were no different. In the hieroglyphic script that the Egyptians used, the dung beetle referred to the idea of transformation. It was often included in religious and funeral art because of its reference to transformation! In modern Egypt, the figure of the dung beetle is still popular among ceramic artists and in bead shops. 

The dung beetle has played a significant role in popular culture. 

 In Franz Kafka’s famous story, The Metamorphosis, the main character Gregor Samsa transforms into a beetle. While his fellow characters first refer to him as a regular beetle, a cleaning lady refers to him as a dung beetle at a significant moment in the novella. Additionally, the dung beetle has been a character of significance in works by Aesop, the famed fabulist Hans Christian Andersen, and Aristophanes. 

Also Read: Native American Homes & Dwellings

Dung beetles use balls of dung to take a break from the heat. 

Dung beetles use balls of dung to take a break from the heat. 

Many dung beetles live in warm places that get hotter as the sun rises in the sky. When scientists were studying the beetles and their behavior as the temperature changed, they noticed that the dung beetles would climb to the top of their balls of dung to allow their feet to cool. The same scientists also experimented with fashioning silicone footwear to fit onto the dung beetles’ feet; they noticed that these insects took fewer breaks and worked faster under the sun when their feet were more relaxed. 

Dung beetles are very strong. 

This nugget of wisdom might come as a surprise to some, but did you know that they are the strongest insects in the world? The dung beetle has the power and ability to pull more than 1000 times its own body weight. If you were to compare the dung beetle’s weight lifting ability with a human’s, it would be equivalent to a human lifting five or six double-decker buses! 

Dung beetles use the sky as a guide when pushing a ball of dung. 

When studying dung beetles, a group of researchers discovered that before the beetles start pushing the ball of dung, they climb on top of it to assess their surroundings and figure out which direction they need to start pushing it. After observing different types of dung beetles, the researchers eventually discovered that the African dung beetle looks towards the sky and uses it as a guide to help steer the dung in the right direction. 

Dung beetles are often used to protect livestock in the United States. 

Since dung beetles act quickly in removing animal feces, the American Institute of Biological Sciences has discovered that after reintroducing dung beetles into farms, these insects have saved the cattle industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year! Once the dung beetles have gotten rid of cow dung, they are also eliminating the growth of flies and other pests. 

Conclusion 

Even though dung beetles seem like disgusting creatures with strange eating habits, they are actually one of the most unique insects on the planet that offer several benefits to the ecosystem. In this guide to dung beetles, we walked you through a list of 11 facts that cover many different aspects of who they are. From their strength to the different roles that dung beetles have, we made sure to give you enough information that could inspire you to learn more about them!