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Dung Beetles:
Some Interesting Facts I put together For My Grandchildren for a Teaching Lesson, 2016
Dung beetles include large and diverse group of insects which feed on dung (feces). There are
7000 dung beetles that can be found on each continent except Antarctica. Dung beetles inhabit
different types of ecosystems. They can be found in rainforests, deserts, grasslands…These
insects play very important role in the nature because they recycle waste material and accelerate
circulation of the nutrients in the food chains. Other than that, they prevent spreading of the
diseases by eliminating feces which attracts different types of pests. Finally, they improve
spreading of the seed and thus play vital role in the reforestation of the Earth.
Dung beetles vary in size. Their length ranges from 0.004 inches to 2.4 inches.
Dung beetles have well developed wings and six legs which help them dig tunnels and
collect (and roll) the dung.
Most dung beetles are dark in color. Some of them have metallic luster or can be even
brightly colored.
All dung beetles can be divided in three large categories: rollers, tunnellers and dwellers.
Rollers search for dung far away from their homes. When they find it, they collect it in
the shape of the balls which they roll back to their burrows. Tunnellers search dung and
when they find it, they dig a tunnel where they will store it. Dwellers produce dung on
their own at their homes.
Majority of dung beetles consume dung produced by herbivores. Just small percent of
dung beetles search for a fecal matter produced by carnivores or eat something other than
dung (such as decaying larvae of some insects or plants).
3.3 pounds of the elephant dung can vanish in two hours when 16 000 dung beetles arrive
to the scene to collect piece of dung for itself.
One dung beetle can bury dung that is 250 heavier than the beetle itself in one night.
Some species of dung beetles lay their eggs in the ball of dung. That way, larvae can start
eating the minute they hatch from eggs.
Dung beetle can also steal a dung ball from another beetle. If the eggs and larvae are
already placed inside the ball, thief will eat all of them.
Some dung beetles ride on the animals, whose feces they like to eat, until they are ready
to poop. After animal release its feces, beetle jumps down and start to feast. Other dung
beetles use their sense of smell to detect the dung they prefer.
In some parts of the Texas, dung beetles bury 80 percent of cattle dung. Australia
imported 45 different types of dung beetles to remove the cattle dung.
Dung beetles are very strong animals. They can carry the weight which is 50 times
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heavier than their body weight.
Dung beetles are solitary creatures which meet with other beetles only during mating
Female lays eggs inside the dung or in the underground burrows. Dung beetles undergo
complete metamorphosis, which means that they need to pass several changes in the body
shape before they become completely formed dung beetles. Metamorphosis includes
stages called larvae and pupa before adult insect is formed.
Average lifespan of dung beetles is 3 to 5 years, depending on the species.
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