Although revered by the ancient Egyptians in their religious artwork and jewellery, present on all continents except Antarctica, not many people know how important these excrement-eating insects are.
f ever you find yourself doubting whether or not you love your job keep this in mind; all these insects do is shuffle poo around, and eat it. Sounds pretty, well, shitty, but the dung beetle is so pivotal to so many ecosystems.
This is especially true among the great herds of Africa, which drop a staggering amount of doo doo.. Dung beetles are more than happy to pick up little bits and roll them around, distributing fertiliser and the seeds it can contain more evenly among the plains. Burying the droppings also has the added benefit of removing a food supply for flies, helping to keep their populations in check.
What's so good about eating dung? Well, African elephants have very inefficient digestive systems, only extracting around 40% of the nutrients from their diet, so there is plenty left for the dung beetles.
If you have ever been on game drive or even a walk in the bush you may have noticed these peculiar creatures, low flying with a loud buzzing sound and closely resembling a hovering helicopter. They always seem to be coming right for your face and somehow look as if they moving in slow motion.
Dung beetles are mainly broken down into 4 groups:
Telecoprid, Endocopri, Paracoprid, and Kleptocoprid.
Telecoprids roll balls of rounded dung. Endocoprids lay their eggs in a pile of dung. The Paracoprid digs down below dung and the Kleptocoprids, well, they steal balls of dung!
n relation to its size the dung beetle is not only the world’s strongest insect – it’s the world’s strongest animal. When moving balls of dung, a Telecoprid can pull around 1,000 times its own bodyweight – that’s the same as a human dragging six full double-decker busses along a road!
Photographer, conservationist, dive and field guide, teller of bad jokes.