Dung beetles are a relatively modern group of beetles and their fossils only extend back to 40 million years ago. They belong to the family Scarabaeidae and are also known as scarabs. They are scavengers, which feed on dung and other decaying organic matter, and play an invaluable role in keeping the veld clean.
The ancient Egyptians revered them as a symbol of renewed life. Khepri was a scarab god of the sun and the important symbolism came from the scarab's rolling his ball of dung then taking it down into the soil from where new life later emerged. Hence Kepri rolled the sun across the sky and buried it each evening, was born anew in the morning and rolled the sun across the sky again. Egyptian priests seem to have thought that the scarabs ball of dung was equivalent to his egg, they believed all sacarbs were male therefore, because he did not need a female for reproduction. They reasoned that if both the sun and a scarab beetle could be reborn in a special container in the ground then why couldn't people. It is now believed by some modern scholars that the Egyptian mummy in its tomb/pyramid was a representation of the pupa of S. sacer in the remains of its ball of dung in the earth. Scarab amulets became immensely popular and remained that way for centuries and are the most common archeological relics from the N. African region.
They are small to large, usually stout-bodied, and are easily recognized by the 3 to 7 segmented fan-like antennal club. Their legs are powerful, particularly the front legs, which are armed with teeth on the outer edge. In some species the legs are adapted to rolling balls of dung to a suitable soft spot, and for digging holes in which the dung is buried. The buried dung serves as a source of food for adult beetles, and also for the larvae when they hatch from eggs laid on the dung-balls.
Each brood ball contains a single egg and is coated in a clay shell. The parent beetles abandon the chamber soon after the eggs have hatched.
The larvae, also called white grubs, are greyish-white to bluish-white in colour, C-shaped, and also feed on decaying organic matter, such as tree stumps, and the roots of plants.
In 1973 a guy called Jo Anderson recorded the action as it happened at a small 1.5 Kg pile of Elephant dung on the African savannah. In two hours that small pile of dung attracted 16 000 dung beetles of various shapes and sizes, who between them had eaten and or buried that dung completely in just those two hours. Typhaeus typhoeus the Minotaur Beetle (A UK species) can dig burrows up to one metre deep
All dung beetles are scarabs, but not all scarabs are dung beeties. For instance, the protea beetle (Trichostetha fascicularis) gathers nectar from various species of proteas.
Dung beetles serve a number of very important ecological functions. The digging activity of tunnelling beetles results in the aeration of soil as well as the transfer of nutrients to the soil by releasing the nutrients in the dung. Also, dung beetles break down dung and prevent flies from breeding in it.
Since cattle and other members of their family (the Bovidae) are not indigenous to Australia. where marsupial herbivores such as kangaroos occur instead, there are very few insects other than flies that feed on their dung. Over the years. flies have reached epidemic proportions in the grazing areas of Australia, and the accumulation of unburied cow-pats has made pastures repellent to domestic stock. In order to control the flies and to destroy the pats, at least four species of South African dung beetles have been introduced into Australia. Unfortunately, the experiment has been only partly successful and the problem is still being investigated.
: The photos from our trip! Overhere! Feel free to use any of these additional letters to correct the spelling of words found in the above post: a-e-t-n-d-i-o-s-m-l-u-y-h-c