dung beetle rolling ball
Scarabaeus sacer, the sacred scarab of the Egyptians,
rolling a dung ball.
Photo by Rene Limoges, Insectarium du Montreal.

Scarab beetles are the planet’s natural recyclers.  You may not have ever thought about it, but scarab beetles eat dung (poop), carrion (dead animals), and dead plants.  Scarab beetles keep our planet clean!

Scarab beetles that feed on dung are called tumble bugs or dung beetles.  They dig tunnel-like nests in the ground and fill them with high-quality poop for their larvae to feed on.  In some species of tumble bugs, the male and female cooperate in forming and shaping the dung ball, rolling it to a place to be buried.  The female lays one egg per dung ball.  The developing larva has its own food supply while it is growing up!  Male and female tumble bugs may guard the nest from intruders until the larvae have fully developed. 


Larva of Dynastes hercules.
Photo courtesy of Brett Ratcliffe.


In the tropics, scarab beetle larvae have an important ecological role in the recycling of organic matter. They feed on enormous quantities of rotten logs and after digesting their food, the larvae poop tiny pieces of wood that are reincorporated into nature by bacteria and fungi that feed on those nutrients.

Scarab larvae feed on large amounts of decaying wood. One larva can digest more than 1.3 pounds of wood in a year!

Click below to download the worksheet to
help a scarab larvae to eat decaying wood!
Authors: Aura Paucar-Cabrera and Mary Liz Jameson
This project is made possible thanks to:

Generated on 18-APR-2010