Dung beetles or the poop beetles are one of the most well known beetles out there. Their life rotates around poop, from feeding to nesting. They utilize the feces of other mammals for their basic needs. They are part of the insect class and most of them are part of the Scarabaediae family. There are around 8000 different species of dung beetles in the world today.
Many of us will consider them dirty and would not like having them around. However, they are a necessary part of the ecosystem. There are so many good things about them. We are here on a mission to change your view about dung beetles. Hopefully, you are going to have a new perspective and respect for these dung beetles when you reach the end of this video.
Table of Contents
- 1. They Are Everywhere
- 2. Truth About Dung Beetles
- 3. Best Insect Parents
- 4. Picky Eaters
- 5. Timing Is Key
- 6. Dog Of The Insect World
- 7. World Champion In Powerlifting
- 8. Natural GPS
- 9. Friends Of Dinosaurs
- 10. Natural Air Conditioner
- 11. Sacred Animals
- 12. Saving Australia BBQ Scene
- 13. Unsung Heroes
- 14. Waiting To Extinct
- 15. Key To Life
1. They Are Everywhere
Just like you can find human beings all around the world in every continent, the dung beetles come in second for that. You can basically find them in every continent except Antarctica. Dung beetles live in farmland, grassland, forest, prairie, and even in the desert. The reason they are not found in Antarctica is because they cannot withstand the cold. Everywhere they live, they are an important part of the land’s ecosystem.
2. Truth About Dung Beetles
When you hear dung beetles, you might be thinking about black beetles rolling poop balls everywhere. Well, this is a true fact, but not the whole truth. Dung beetles are divided into at least four categories: rollers, tunellers, dwellers, and stealers.
The rollers are the dung beetles that we are most familiar with. They are the ones that will roll poop into dung balls and use them for food and place to lay eggs. The tunnellers will bury the dung where they find it. The dwellers, on the other hand, just simply live in the manure. Lastly, the stealers are the sneaky and lazy ones that stole food from the rollers. So, not every dung beetle rolls poop all their life.
3. Best Insect Parents
Another interesting behavior of the dung beetles is that they are surprisingly very good parents. All dung beetles will lay eggs in a place where their future kids can find food easily. This is why they lay eggs on dung balls and create a nest that has enough food for their young. Just like most animals, the female dung beetles have full responsibility for child rearing: building nests for protection and providing food.
However, some dung beetle species share their child care responsibility between the male and female. Studies have found that male dung beetles adjust their parental behaviors to their female pair. When paired with smaller females, they will perform more parental duties rather than when paired with larger females. In terms of rolling a food ball, usually a pair of male and female dung beetles work together cooperatively. Thus, it is natural for them to make a great team as parents too. Also, some Cephalodesmius dung beetles, one particular species of dung beetle, mate for life.
4. Picky Eaters
We might think since dung beetles love poop, they will basically utilize just any poop they could find. Dung beetles, apparently, are super picky. They know how to pick out the best poop out there. Most of them would usually feed on the feces of herbivores which contain half digested grass and smelly liquid. The beetles have a special part on their mouth to suck this liquid that contains a huge amount of microorganisms that they could actually digest.
Other species of dung beetles consume feces from carnivores and some others will skip the poop and go for mushrooms, carrion, and decaying leaves and fruits. The reason for them being so picky is because they want to find big poops that contain the tiniest particles. This is so that they could have enough nitrogen supply. These beetles will eat the poop they usually consume. They won’t eat just any poop. They know which poop is the best for them.
5. Timing Is Key
For dung beetles, timing is key. It is especially true for their feeding and laying eggs behavior. Dung beetles know that it is best to consume fresh poop. This is because poop that has been sitting there for sometime will dry out of its smelly liquid which is their actual source of nutrients. Thus, these dung beetles know when is the right time to consume them.
On the other hand, dung beetles will lay more eggs during the rainy season. During the rainy season, dung pats contain more moisture and will take longer to dry out. It only takes 1 to 2 days for their eggs to hatch, thus it will be easier for baby dung beetles to get enough nutrients during the rainy season.
6. Dog Of The Insect World
Studies showed it only took 15 to 30 minutes for dung beetles to reach freshly excreted feces. The question is how can they know where the fresh poops are so fast? Dung beetles use their excellent sense of smell to track down the freshest poop droppings.
They don’t have a nose, but instead they use their antennae to do this. Once their antennae sense something they will directly fly to the exact location before the poop dries out and to avoid competition. They are basically like dogs which also have an excellent sense of smell.
7. World Champion In Powerlifting
Other than their exquisite sense of smell, dung beetles easily top the chart of being the strongest insect in the world. They are even considered the strongest animal in the world. We know that their power lifting exercise involves rolling their poop balls to different places. They could roll and pull something that is 1141 times their own body weight.
It is equivalent to one human carrying six fully loaded double-decker buses. This is how strong they are. Some dung beetles have horns and they are quite strong fighters too. Dung beetles are also strong flyers especially when they are flying to a new pile of poop. In the dung beetles’ powerlifting olympic games, the 10 millimeters horned dung beetle will take the gold medal home.
8. Natural GPS
Another fascinating ability of the dung beetles is that it uses the Milky Way as its GPS. When dung beetles are rolling their food ball, they will orient themselves with the bright line of light produced by the galaxy and follow that line. This observation is done in South Africa where they see the dung beetles doing so.
Just like how people in the past follow the stars to navigate themselves to different places, the dung beetles do something similar to navigate themselves. They need this ability to walk in a straight line in order to overcome competition with other dung beetles over a fresh pile of poop. The dung beetle is the first known animal that has such a complicated and fascinating navigation method.
9. Friends Of Dinosaurs
Talking about having an ancient behavior of following the stars, dung beetles were known to be ancient creatures firstly found during the same time as dinosaurs. So, first generation dung beetles have been rolling dinosaur poop millions of years ago.
Scientists also found a connection between the development of these dung beetles and the flowering plants, angiosperms which also flourished around the same time. When the dinosaurs went extinct, some species of dung beetles also went extinct. However, some species survive which is why we can still find them today. These dung beetles who survived the extinction would be the species that has adapted themselves to consume the poop of Cretaceous mammals.
10. Natural Air Conditioner
Their poop ball is not only a food ball, but it is also an air conditioning ball. Some dung beetles live in places where it is scorching hot. However, the dung beetles are busy beings, they have work to do. Thus, they need to keep their feet from getting burned by the hot soil. Scientists find that oftentimes they will do a little dance on top of their food ball.
They thought that the dung beetles did this to keep their rival away. However, they noticed that they only do this during midday when the sun is at its hottest. After more observation, scientists concluded that they do this to cool their feet off. They also find that these dung beetles will do a “wiping their face” action in order to spread regurgitated liquid to their heads and feet.
11. Sacred Animals
While many of us considered dung beetles as dirty animals, it is considered a sacred animal in ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians considered them similar to their god of the rising sun, Khepri. Khepri is responsible for rolling the sun through the underworld at night and having it over the horizon just in time for the sunrise on the next morning. The dung-rolling action of the dung beetles is considered to be parallel to the sun-rolling action of Khepri.
Thus, we can see that ancient Egyptians worship and also create items with beautiful dung beetles on them. As a matter of fact, there are species of dung beetles which are beautiful. For example, the rainbow dung beetles have a colorful metallic body that looks exactly like the rainbow. They are super pretty and usually found in several parts of the US. These beautiful dung beetles mainly feed on animal feces, particularly feces of pig and possum.
12. Saving Australia BBQ Scene
In Australia, they have found these dung beetles to be extremely helpful. In one night, they could roll 50 times and bury 250 times the amount of poop compared to their own weight. Today, there are 27 million cattle and 104 million sheep in Australia.
They produced about 27 million liters of dung per day. With this massive amount of dung, the dung beetles are working day and night in order to make sure these poop do not pile up and cause problems for the animal and soil. They cover around 80% of the total poop everyday. There are 23 different species of dung beetles that are introduced to Australia and each of them suit different kinds of climate conditions to work well. Ever since, Australia has had their cattle poop under control thanks to these hardworking dung beetles.
13. Unsung Heroes
The dung beetles are the most underappreciated heroes for our ecosystem. They are responsible for the cycle of nutrients in the soil by burying the dung. When they are rolling the poop, they bring nitrogen, carbon, and phosphate underground. When they do tunneling, they help aerate the soil so that it could absorb rain water better. This results in a more fertile soil which is the perfect place for strong roots and plants and also soil microbes and insects to grow and flourish.
Also, they keep the fly population in control so that they won’t bring sickness to the cattle and farm animals. They basically help fertilize our soil. Also, animals don’t like to graze on pastures filled with lots of poop, thus the dung beetles help maximize the pasture area for feeding purposes as they recycle all that poop. Lastly, the dung beetle also reduces methane emissions because by breaking down feces as fast as they could they will give no time for anaerobic fermentation and methane production to happen. Just imagine what our world will be like if the dung beetles do not exist?
14. Waiting To Extinct
Shockingly, some dung beetle species are endangered. Scientists have noticed this in places such as the Mediterranean. The reason for their disappearance is the condition where there are less and less tree covers.
If the 8000 species of dung beetles go extinct, you can expect our land to be covered in poop at knee-deep height. There will be an extreme imbalance in our ecosystem since our natural waste management is non-existent. Thus, this is a warning for all of us to take good care of our environment and spare ourselves from living in a smelly earth.
15. Key To Life
Lastly, the dung beetles are probably more important than we think they are. Aside from balancing our ecosystem, responsible for the well being of our soil and animals, people believe that dung beetles also play a vital role in biodiversity of agriculture. When the dung beetles diminish, more manure is left on the soil unattended.
This leads to the decrease in soil health which means the land can no longer produce good agriculture products. This will lead to people converting more forest into farmland in order to make up for their loss in production. Decreasing forest means the decline in biodiversity. Looking at this pattern, we can see that the existence of dung beetles holds the key to biodiversity on earth. After knowing more about the dung beetles and what they do, we can see the reason more clearly why dung beetles are our heroes. They are heroes because they want to do the dirty work handling poop and turn them into something useful, both for themselves and also for others.