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The Very Important Dung Beetles

Dung beetles play a very important ecological role with in the environment, replenishing all the important microbial nutrients back into the soil as a fertilizer for all the flora. This assists in better vegetation growth and suppresses fly invasion. In fact it is known that 1 dung beetle can bury more than 1 metric ton of dung per hectare per annum.

Four Groups of Dung Beetles

There are four different groups of dung beetles according to their specific way in which they collect dung.

  1. The Telecoprids, or the ball rollers as we like to call them, collect the dung from the dung pile and roll it away using their back legs to be ether eaten or berried for the purpose of laying an egg and this also reduces competition with the Endocoprids and the Paracoprids.
  2. Endocoprids or “dwellers” are beetles that live inside the dung pile feeding, breeding and living in situ.
  3. Paracoprids or “Tunnellers” bury the dung beneath the pile of dung itself to feed, breed and also stash it as their larval food supply.
  4. Last but not least the Cleptocoprids are the thieves. They normally like to steal the balls rolled by the Telecoprids “ball rollers’ for their own to lay eggs, breed or feed on.

Normally the ball rollers put on a hefty fight before just giving up a ball to a cleptocoprid thief beetle by using their powerful front arms to flick of its intruder.

Caution when driving

Whilst out on a game drive it is very important NOT to drive over any dung pile (elephant or rhino or zebra) as these piles may consist of anything between 30 – 15000 beetles. In one pile of elephant dung alone there have been records of over 16000 beetles in just 1 pile of dung. So we need to take extreme caution whilst driving.

Author

Jacques Coetzee