Dung beetles

Dung beetles are in the Class Insecta and the Order Coleoptera placed in the Super family Scarabaeoidea, with most of them in the sub-families of Aphodiinae and Scarabaeinae. They are sometimes referred to as Scarab beetles.

Life style of the dung beetle

There are various dung beetles  that feed on dung throughout their lives, indeed, many can eat their own weight in dung on a daily basis. However revolting this may sound they are doing us a great service by living this life style. Imagine all the animal dung deposited in the countryside and indeed, on our streets, every day of the year. Cows for example may deposit a dozen cow "pats" each day that is enough to cover a field within weeks. herbivores such as rabbits, hares and other farm animals all deposit their droppings onto the countryside and farmland. Allin all a lot of dung!.

Cows deposit up to a dozen "pats" each per day.


Dung beetles  may help stop the spread of disease

Where it not for these industrious creatures we would be up to our necks in the stuff !. Flies breed by the millions so it is not difficult to realise, that apart from the problems already mentioned, there would be, in my opinion, much more disease spread by flies and other creatures, if dung beetles did not live this kind of life style.

Dung beetles going about their business !


Dung beetles in Britain

The smaller dung beetles , including many of the Aphodius genus, normally feed and breed where dung falls. Larger species such as the Dumbledor  and Minotaur beetles roll the dung into balls dragging them back to their burrows. 

Scarab beetles are most abundant in the warmer climes and apart from Copris lunaris just eight species have been recorded in Britain. They all belong to the genus Onthophagus and measure about 11mm long or less. The head is distinctly narrower than the thorax and the elytra are dull black or of a brownish colour.

The dumbledor or dor beetles belong to the genus Geotrupes is the most common of the six  very similar beetles associated with cow pats and other dung. The dumbledors' robust wing cases, which are distinctly ridged along their length, deter most predators with the exception of foxes because they are hard and distasteful.  The strong legs of this beetle are adorned with sharp spines which are capable of dragging heavy balls of dung over ground to its burrow.

The dung is taken to chambers inside the burrow and the female will lay her eggs on it.  The species which lay their eggs in burrows, have no need to lay them in large amounts because they are concealed and secure against most predators. Each larvae that hatches feeds in its own chamber for many months and emerge as adults during the following spring or summer. 


Aphodius species

Studies have revealed that the larvae of some Aphodius species  which normally live in dung above the ground  some times invade the tunnels of the dumbledor and other species of the genus Geotrupes. to feed on the buried dung. In doing so they may well eat the eggs and young larvae of the Geotrupes, at very least they will eat their food.

Beetles nationally scarce or nationally rare  that occur in north west England.

Aphodius bravis--is Nationally rare and occurs in the Sefton region of Merseyside.

Aphodius nemoralis, is Nationally Scarce and is found in three regions of Cumbria.

Aphodius zenkeri is Nationally Scarce and found in the Trafford region of Greater Manchester.

Geotrupes vernalis--is Nationally Scarce and found in three regions of Cumbria. 

Scarab beetle rolling a dung ball

Beetle facts.

about 40% of all described insect species are beetles, approximately 400,000 species.

They belong to the Order Coleoptera which derives from the Greek Koleos meaning a sheath + pteron meaning a wing. Beetle derives from the old English word bitel meaning little biter.  Coleoptera contains more species than any other order constituting almost 25% of all known life forms. They are generally characterised by hard fore-wings known as elytra

Beetles in the family Coccinellidae are known as lady birds {lady bugs}.

Beetles bodies, in common with all insects, consist of three sections, the head, thorax and abdomen.  beetles have compound eyes. beetle antennae are primarily organs of smell but they may also be used to feel out the beetle's environment physically, in some species they are used to defend themselves.

Beetles are members of the Endopterygota which means that like most other insects complete metamorphosis by completing four main stages , the egg, the larvae, the pupa and the imago or adult. The larvae are commonly referred to as grubs and the pupa called cocoons.

All beetle larvae go through 3 changes between each moult that are known as instars.

The study of beetles is called Coleopterology. 

Adults are extremely variable life spans from weeks to years depending on the species. 

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