A Look into the Life of a Dung Beetle
A Look into the Life of a Dung Beetle: If you've ever gone on a summer safari in South Africa, you'll understand what I'm about to say, and if you haven't, you should schedule your next trip to Londolozi IMMEDIATELY.
The bush comes alive with excellent bird calls and insects swarming about from every aspect after the first significant rains on Londolozi.
For me, one of the most thrilling seasonal events is the return of dung beetles; we know summer has arrived when we drive by a dung heap or garbage dump and the plant-filled excrement pulses with life.
Hundreds of dung beetles compete for their share of the fresh dung in these dung heaps.
It's astonishing to witness these scarabs working with such endurance and vigour.
There are over 7000 dung beetles worldwide, with approximately 780 species found in southern Africa.
The size and colour of these dung beetles range from a few millimetres and a shiny green to some larger ones that grow up to 5 cm and are jet black.
Dung beetles emerge only in the summer after the rains when the earth softens and allows them to bury their droppings.
A male dung beetle's labour is extraordinary since he sets out daily to find fresh manure.
These beetles are expert navigators, able to identify fresh dung within minutes of its deposit by the various hosts.
The dung beetles have a symbiotic relationship with a tiny house dust mite, which lives in the dung beetles' mouths and cleans them of excess dung particles.
As you might expect, dung beetles spend a lot of time in filth, dung, and dust, and as they fly around looking for fresh dung piles, these little mites are busily cleaning them and making sure their exoskeleton doesn't become clogged.
Excrement beetles are categorised into four major subgroups based on what they do with the dung.
Endocoprids, sometimes known as “dwellers,” are dung beetles that live and reproduce inside the dung pile.
Paracoprids, often known as “tunnelers,” bury their faeces straight beneath the dung pile as a food source for their larvae.
Telecoprids, sometimes known as “rollers,” are frequently spotted rolling their dung balls and transporting them away from the original place to be eaten and buried elsewhere.
Kleptopcoprids steal balls from telecoprids and put their eggs in them.
When the telecoprids encounter a dung pile, the frenzy begins, much like when they hurry to work after a safari vacation, but there is no rest.
They are on their way to roll one of two balls.
The first is a wedding ball, in which male rolls for a female to ingest and mate; the more significant the ball, the more impressed the female is.
The female is more impressed by more giant balls. When the female finds a guy with a ball that fulfils her specifications, she grabs onto the side while the male rolls the ball into or digs a hole himself.
The brood ball is the second form of a ball and serves as a larval pantry for the dung beetle.
The mother lays just one egg in the brood ball and taps it to shape it into an almost pear-shaped egg. The body is then buried.
During the winter, the outer shell hardens to keep the inside moist so that the larvae can develop and devour the ball's leftovers.
One season, a female can deposit up to 60 eggs, so one male must roll in 60 brood balls.
If you've ever observed a man roll a ball, you might have noticed that he occasionally stops and stares up at the sky.
In doing so, it proceeds to the precise location where it has previously buried other balls. According to scientific evidence, these remarkable scarabs orient themselves to the sun's rays during the day and the Milky Way at night.
Dung beetles can bury more than a tonne of manure per acre each year. They are essential for the environment because they are responsible for regenerating vast amounts of buried trash and plant excrement.
This can be beneficial in insect management. It not only reduces the number of flies by reducing the number of breeding sites for their eggs (dung), but it also reduces the amount of elephant dung excreted each day. Because elephants only digest about 44% of their food, there is still a significant amount of nutrients left in the dung that the beetles recycle back into the soil.
If you're on a game drive and wondering why your Land Rover ranger is swerving wildly, it's probably because they are dodging these hardworking little insects.