Amazing creatures: dung beetles

There are about 7000 species of dung beetle worldwide, of which Southern Africa has about 780 species! Every summer we wait for the bush to come alive. Then there are dung beetles on every dung pile, the dung piles becoming the work-place of these amazing creatures, as they fight for a piece of fresh dung. Dung beetles are well designed for their lifestyle, with quite a robust exoskeleton and stout front legs to help pushing the massive ball of dung and which are serrated to aid them in cutting through compacted dung. Their head is used for digging and scrapping together the dung, followed by patting it into a ball. The small antennae found on the dung beetle are mostly used for navigation and detection of dung piles. Dung beetles possess HUGE STRENGTH and can roll balls up to 50 to 80 times their own body weight. This is equivalent to a human pulling six fully loaded double-decker buses! That means that in relation to their size, dung beetles are not only the strongest insect but also the strongest animal in the world. There are small parasites found on the dung beetle that are known to eat the dung from the joints and mouth parts of the dung beetle so that the dung doesn’t dry and prevent the dung beetle from moving its limbs and mouth parts – something which could kill it. Dung beetles roll about 30 balls per year, laying from 3 to 5 eggs per ball, then burying the balls underground. Although the dung balls are buried underground, there are certain animals that will dig them up, such as honey badger, warthog and mongoose. Interestingly, without dung beetles there would be a whole lot more flies – dung beetles reduce the presence of flies by moving the dung before the flies find it.