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Insect: Dung beetles

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bwana
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Insect: Dung beetles

Unread post by bwana » Tue Jan 25, 2005 8:26 pm

I was expecting to see them in their hundreds but we never saw one when we where there. Why? Are they seasonal or area specific? Whilst in Addo a couple of years ago, we saw lots and had all to do in order to miss them with the car.

Titbit: In the first edition of Jock and the Bushveld a dung beetle was shown pushing a ball of dung with its front legs. Unfortunatly for the artist, dung beetles use their back legs, resulting in reprints of the book being necessary!
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Dung beetles

Unread post by francoisd » Wed Jan 26, 2005 8:30 am

We normally try and enter KNP in the far north and work our way down to the south. The lack of dung beetles in the greater part of the Park is something that I notice on every trip. The largest concentrations we normally find around Pretoriuskop, but we also get them in other areas close to the South of the Park.

We came across this "honeymoon couple" on the S25 in Nov 04.

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bwana
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Unread post by bwana » Wed Jan 26, 2005 10:17 am

wildtuinman wrote:So it seems that there are a bit more around the Southern part of the Park. Does anyone know the reason why?


Maybe the soil is softer in the southern part making it easier to bury their payload?
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Unread post by Meg » Wed Jan 26, 2005 10:19 am

Oddly I've never struggled to find these little chaps - quite often seeing whole colonies of them cleaning up the roads after ellies. I wonder if they get danger pay... :lol:
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Sep 07, 2005 7:23 am

After the first good summer rains you will find them all of a sudden venturing around. Keep your eyes peeled for them soon.
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Unread post by wildtuinman » Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:18 am

francoisd wrote:These little creatures are a favourite of mine and I examine most dung heaps in and next to the road for there presence.

I've noticed that the are not that prevelant in the Northern part of the Park as in the south with the most found around Pretoriuskop.

Any specific reason for this? Maybe soil type, specific dung they prefer?


Ja they like Sable dung more. :twisted:

Francoisd, PKop has got the highest rainfall in the Park and Pafuri the lowest, thus I would think that this might be a big part of the equation. They only appear after the first good rains.
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Unread post by DuQues » Wed Sep 07, 2005 10:29 am

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.

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Unread post by Pilane » Thu Sep 08, 2005 8:45 pm

wildtuinman wrote:
Also rhino dung seems to be a favourite. We were told on the bushman's trail that if you were to dig in a rhino "toilet" that you would find them.


This will be the group belonging to the para- and endo- coprids
the Endo coprids live in the dung and the para coprids under the dung (midden) these two dung beetles groups do not roll balls of dung. (some species of para coprids will roll a ball and bury it directly under the dung) The tele- coprids are ball rollers ...
There are almost a 1000 different species of dung beetles in Southern Africa. They are also the only insect where pheromones are produced by the male and not the female..

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Unread post by Stoffel » Wed Sep 28, 2005 4:47 pm

The S40 (between Girivana and Timbavati Picnic Spot) is known in our family as the "Dung Beetle Road". Although we have not seen them on some occasions driving this road, we have seen some most of the times. Suchlike we call the S128 (running parallel to the H10) the 'Ostrich Road'. Never ever have we travelled this road without seeing ostriches.

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Dung beetles

Unread post by Pieter Steyn » Sun May 14, 2006 2:15 pm

I have done some research on the Dung Beetles and thought that i will share some information with you.

According to http://www.dungbeetles.com Dung beetles are strong flyer's and fly several kilometres in one flight. Day light hours (day fliers) and dusk to dawn. (night fliers) The fly upwind along an odour plume to the fresh dung.

Most species mould dung into individual balls in which one egg is laid. The larvae that hatched feed on the dung. When larval growth is completed the larval pupates and a new adult emerges. The time between egg laying and adult emerge can vary from one month to a year or more depending on the species. The life span of the adults is 2-6 months depending on the species. They are most active during the rain season.

According to the St. Lucia library information (http://www.stluciainfo.co.za) 140 species of dung beetles have already been identified in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park. They also states that larger species can live through three seasons (2.5 years) and will only lay 50 to 80 eggs during their life span, while smaller species produce 80 to 200 eggs during their three to four-month lifetime.

Males use extra-large balls to attract mates. Thus dung piles are often the site of wrestling matches between competing beetles. Being able to navigate in a straight line is an important skill for the beetles because it helps them to escape the madness as quickly as possible.

Males of certain species with horns use the appendage for fighting and for grabbing female mates. Males fight underground and during these fights, the males hook their horns and try to push each other out of the desired females tunnel.

Researchers established that they aligns path by detecting polarity patterns in sunlight and rely on those patterns for finding their way. They have also turned up evidence that the insect aligns its path by detecting the polarisation of moonlight.

You will see many signs in the Addo Elephant National Park asking people to take care not to run over dung beetles as they are vital to the fragile ecology. Maybe similar signs should be erected at the Kruger National Park.

The dung beetles disperse dung and this activity serves to:
- Increase soil fertility
- By burying dung into soil, containing important nutrients
- By burying dung and thus nutrients into plant root zone.
- Increase soil aeration
- Increase water infiltration into the soil
- Reduce pasture fouling
- Reduce water contamination and algal blooms
- Reduce bush and buffalo fly numbers
- Reduce parasite loads

So next time we see dung in the road, do not not drive over it, as dung beetles have to risk there lives to collect the dung. Swerve out and spare the precious life of the dung beetle. I have seen people driving over camelions because the look in the veld searching for the big five. There is so much more to see in nature.

We as humans can learn from the dung beetles. We should not be so quick to throw things away bur rather reuse or recycle, like the dung beetle.

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Re: Dung beetles

Unread post by wildheart » Mon May 07, 2007 7:54 pm

Next time that you see a whole lot of fresh dung do yourself a favour and stop. If there is beetles, sit back and enjoy the best wrestling match of your life.

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We watched them for about 20 min. + and the tears were rolling down our faces from laughter. :lol: Each one wants the best and freshest dung and they are more than prepared to fight for it. They actually flip one another in the air so that they land on there backs. The one was especially funny, after being thrown off his dung a few times he sneaked around the other side and as soon as his rival was on the dung he attacked him from behind.
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We watched how they rolled it and how the female's then hitched a ride. The poor things, tired from the battle and then still pushing the lady around.

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Unread post by gwendolen » Wed Apr 09, 2008 9:42 am

Here's a dung beetle video by National Geographic on YouTube.

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Unread post by restio » Wed Apr 09, 2008 8:59 pm

pieter22, when I was in KNP for the Cricket (March 08) I was fortunate to see lots of dung beetles - the most I've ever seen in KNP in such a short trip.

Earlier on in this thread, people say that they tend to see them more after it has rained. That's certainly true of the millipedes (shongololos)! It was raining on and off on the two days when I saw them, so perhaps that is why you weren't lucky enough to see them? What a pity - they are such endearing little creatures.

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Unread post by DinkyBird » Sat Apr 12, 2008 11:06 pm

Flightless dung beetles (Circellium bacchus) - pic taken in Addo, April 2008.
Image

There are only a few populations left of these scattered around the Eastern Cape, with the largest population in Addo. They were once found throughout southern Africa.
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Re: Insect: Dung beetles

Unread post by Leeukos » Wed May 16, 2012 8:16 pm

Saw this Dung Beetle next to the road. There were a lot of them busy with what Dung Beetles do best ...

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Did You Know? :hmz:
Dung beetles are beetles that feed partly or exclusively on feces.
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