10 cool things about dung beetles

Dung beetles don’t get all the credit they deserve! These little insects clean up after animals without thinking twice. Let’s find out why they are so cool.

  1. Have your poop and eat it!

Imagine eating other animals’ poop every day as your main meal. That is the diet of most dung beetles. But they are picky eaters – they don’t eat just any poop. Most dung beetles prefer poop from herbivores or omnivores. Just imagine what a feast elephant poop is to dung beetles – enough for a huge party!

2. Why eat poop?

Grass eaters don’t always digest all the nutrients from the food they eat, and the undigested food ends up in their dung. Dung beetles dig into this leftover nutritious poop and find it healthy and yummy.

3. World’s strongest animals

Not only are dung beetles considered the strongest of all the insects, but in relation to their body weight, they are the strongest animals on the planet. They have to roll balls of dung that can be 50 times their own weight. A beetle can roll and bury a total of dung that is 250 times its weight in one night. In one case, a dung beetle has even been seen to roll a ball that is 1,141 times its own body weight.

4. Fight night

Some species of dung beetles have horns, almost like rhinos, at the end of their noses. They use these horns to fight off other dung beetles who may try to steal their dung balls.

5. Extended family

There are reportedly over 370,000 species and subspecies of dung beetles. They are found on all the continents, except Antarctica. Fossilised dung balls found by palaeontologists were as big as tennis balls.

6. Incubating poop

Not only do dung beetles eat poop, but they also lay their eggs in poop. Once they have rolled dung balls to a specific place, they dig a hole to place the dung ball in. They also lay their eggs in the dung ball, and some beetles dig tunnels beneath it. Once the larvae hatch, they feast on the poop supplied by their parents.

7. Rolling or dwelling?

The way dung beetles handle the poop determines whether they are rollers, tunnellers or dwellers. Rollers shape dung into a ball that they roll away. Tunnellers dig tunnels beneath the dung pile. Dwellers don’t even bother with much effort: they simply stay in the pile, lay their eggs in the pile, and feed from the pile.

8. Moonlight guidance

Dung beetles use polarised patterns of moonlight to know where to go. They need to escape from the dung pile as soon as they can, so that other beetles don’t steal their loot. Due to polarised patterns created by the moonlight, they are able to run in a straight line. When it is overcast, with no moonlight, they don’t move in straight lines.

9. Small packages

These insects are small, and vary from less than 1mm to 6cm. Dung beetles are covered in hard shells, which can be metallic in colour. They have six strong legs that dig into the ground, and have wings that they can use to fly away.

10. Fresh from the animal

Some dung beetles will stay on top of the animal whose dung they like the most. Once the animal has done its number two, the dung beetle will move in quickly, as they like dung to be fresh.

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