Dung beetles are present on all New York beef and dairy farms. While they don’t have the most glamorous job in the livestock ecosystem, dung beetles play a vital role in improved soil health and pasture ecology. Dung beetles are a beneficial part of the agricultural integrated pest management toolkit, reducing populations of irritating horn and face flies by as much as 95 percent and contributing to healthy milk production in dairy and weight gain in beef cattle.
Dung Beetle Lifestyles
Dwelling, tunneling and rolling dung beetle species can all live in a pat together competing with horn and face flies for resources.
Dwellers: Dung beetle species that "dwell" lay their eggs in brood balls they have constructed in the pat or just below the surface.
Tunnelers: Dung beetle species that "tunnel" lay their eggs in the brood balls they have constructed in tunnels below the pat.
Rollers: Dung beetle species that "roll" lay their eggs in a brood ball they have rolled away from the pat and buried.
These species consume the manure as they tunnel within the dung pat and lay eggs directly in the manure or surrounding soil. Most dung beetles found in New York cattle pastures are dwellers.
Onthophagus species are tunnelers. They consume the pat and burrow beneath it to bury brood balls. This group of nesting dung beetles also relies on male and female beetles to bury the brood ball to feed their young.
Hister beetles, also known as clown beetles, range from 0.5 to 25 mm in length and commonly inhabit manure environments. This diverse group comprises numerous species, with some hister beetles functioning as effective predators of fly larvae within manure ecosystems.
The head of a hister beetle is distinctly smaller than the pronotum but is usually not visible when the insect is at rest and how they are typically found, as in the previous photo.
Sphaeridium beetle larvae are predators of the maggots of the flies that breed in cow dung.
Rove beetles display a distinct inclination for preying on fly maggots and diverse organisms found in manure pats. Both the adult and larval stages of these beetles actively engage in predatory behavior, with their size spanning from 2 to 35 mm in length.
Dung Beetle Visual Guide Photo Credits
Photos and Illustrations by Hannah Tolz, technician, NYSIPM
- Dung beetle lifestyle illustrations.
- Dung beetle photos: Aphodius fimetarius or pedellus, Colobopterus erraticus, Calamosternus granarius, Teuchestes fossor, Eupleurus subterraneus, Otophorus haemorrhoidalis, Alloblackburneus rubeolus, Acrossus rubripennisn Oscarinus rusicola, Labarrus pseudolividus (lividus), Onthophagus taurus male, Onthophagus taurus female, Onthophagus pennsylvanicus, Onthophagus hecate male, Onthophagus hecate female, Hister beetle with head tucked, Hister beetle with head visible, Sphaeridium beetle and Rove beetle.