It's a Ball of Poop

Do dung beetles play ball? Not exactly.

All over the world, dung beetles do a really important clean-up job. They eat the droppings of plant-eating animals, such as cows, sheep, zebras, and even elephants.

Eating dung may sound strange, but dung is mostly undigested food. It's filled with nutritious seeds and pieces of plants and fruit. Dung beetles use the sharp, toothlike edges on their legs and heads to cut off a piece they like. They have to work fast—there are lots of beetles that want some dung. To keep a piece for themselves, they often shape it into a ball and roll the ball away to bury and eat it in a safe place.

At mating time, a female beetle may ride on top of the ball as the male pushes. After they've buried the ball and mated underground, the female lays a single egg on top. That way her baby will have plenty of good dung to eat when it hatches.

Yum!

Vocabulary

  • undigested: Not broken down.

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Activity

  1. Why are dung beetles important?
  2. Do dung beetles reuse, recycle, or reduce the material in animal droppings?
  3. What two things might happen if there were no dung beetles?