Dung beetles are a large and diverse group, but they nearly all have a diet of feces. As with other scarab beetles, they are oval, stout, and have clubbed antennae with feathery segments that can press tightly together or can be fanned open. Most people identify dung beetles by their behavior, when they see them collecting or rolling dung. Anatomically, most dung beetles have the last pair of legs attached closer to the tip of the abdomen than to the base of the middle pair of legs. The head and the pronotum (a plate behind the head) are often broad, and in many species, those of males are adorned with horns or other projections. Most dung beetles are dull black, sometimes shiny black, some species with lengthwise ridges. Some, such as the rainbow scarabs (Phanaeus spp.), have bright metallic greens and coppers.
The larvae are whitish, C-shaped grubs that develop in or beneath a dung heap, or within a ball of dung their parents have crafted for their protection and nourishment.
Habitat and Conservation
By cleaning pastures of manure, dung beetles reduce pests and flies while hastening the return of nutrients to the soil — which improves pastures. Their work saves the U.S. cattle industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Ancient Egyptians revered the dung beetle as a symbol of rebirth.
Whether they roll manure, tunnel into it, or burrow beneath it, dung beetles speed up nature’s recycling process.
By digging holes and burying pieces of manure, they help aerate and fertilize soils.
They are eaten by a variety of insectivores, including skunks, bats, and birds.