A dung beetle sitting atop a small ball of dung

Dung beetle

Mighty recyclers


All continents except Antarctica
All continents except Antarctica
Endangered Status



.5-2.5 inches
in length
A gummy bear is 0.8 inches tall.
A dung beetle's size compared to a gummy bar candy

Dung beetles eat liquid from animal dung. A few species only feast on the dung of carnivores, while others skip the doo-doo and instead eat mushrooms, carrion, and decaying leaves and fruits.

all habitats
except Antarctica
Illustration of planet globe

Dung beetles are found in grasslands, deserts, farmland, forests, and prairies.


Dung beetle rolling a small ball of elephant poo

Here's the scoop

You might want to stay away from animal poop, but dung beetles search for it! They use it for food and a place to lay eggs (so their young will have food).

By burying animal droppings (also called dung), the beetles loosen and nourish the soil and help control fly populations.

A juvenile African elephant, an example of an herbivore that makes dung beetle food

Eating leftovers

Most dung beetles use the droppings of herbivores, which do not digest their food very well. Their dung contains half-digested grass and a smelly liquid. It is this liquid that the adult beetles feed on. Dung beetles also lay their eggs in animal manure so their offspring have food to eat when they hatch.

A pair of dung beetles going to work on a pile of dung

Dirty business

Scientists group dung beetles depending on what they do with the droppings. There are tunnelers, rollers, and dwellers.

Dung beetle on wood chips

Going down

Tunnelers land on a pat of manure and dig down through it and underground. They bury a portion of the dung underground to keep it fresh. The female lays her eggs in the hidden treasure.

Dung beetle rolling a large ball of elephant poo

On a roll

A "roller" type beetle makes dung into a ball. Then it rolls the ball away and buries it. The ball might be used for a female to lay her eggs in. Or, it might end up as food for another time.

Dung beetle on top of dirt ground

On top of it all

Dwellers simply sit on top of the ball of droppings. They lay their eggs in the dung. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the dung, too.


True or False: A dung beetle can fly.