Are you seeing much Dung Beetle activity at the moment?
They seem to have really kicked off here in the last couple of weeks. I have collected a few from our cattle dung to have them identified. I might be a bit weird but the more I’m learning about these incredibly beneficial insects the more I want to learn!!
The pictured beetle is Onthophagus gazella and it was one of four species of dung beetle successfully introduced into Australia in 1968. They were native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is a two-toned beetle and males have a pair of horns at the back of their head. Another identifying feature is that the legs have distinctive dark oval patches on their undersides when the beetle is turned over which you can see on the images below.
They fly at dusk and dawn. They can be active from spring to autumn. These little guys can be now found across northern and eastern Australia to about the Victorian border.
The adult beetles build nesting galleries at the end of burrows approximately 20-25 cm below the dung pat. These galleries are packed with several dung masses or brood balls each with one egg. The development from egg-adult takes 6-8 weeks depending on soil temperature. There are at least two generations a year. Fattened mature grubs will overwinter in the dung balls they have been developing in underground. Adults that emerged from the soil in late summer will also overwinter in burrows underground.
Imagine all the goodness these beetles are adding to our soils and the improvement in water infiltration into our soils through the burrows!!
Note: no beetles have been harmed in the taking of these photos To avoid them running across the table while trying to get photos you can pop them in the fridge for a little while. It slows them down for a short time. I was having terrible trouble trying to photograph them until someone gave me that little tip.