Dung Beetles in Oakridge Ranch

I encourage you to move quickly past the ewwww factor, to consider the beneficial Dung beetle, aka scarab beetle or tumblebug.  You will find two species here.  The dark colored beetle you’ll see is Onthophagus gazelle, introduced to Texas in the 1970s  and now well established.  The metallic one, “Rainbow scarab” is Phanaeus vindex and is related to the scarabs of ancient Egypt.  They measure some 1/2″ to 1″ in length.

These guys are kind of fun to watch, as they work their magic on dog droppings, cattle – whatever.

Quoting a foremost Texas expert, ecologist Dr. Pat Richardson:  “They slurp it, haul it, roll it, fight about it, and bury it…They don’t bite or spit or sting. They simple live, eat, sleep and dream dung.”   However, there is a good deal to learn about the importance of dung beetles.  Researchers have discovered that dung beetles “will bury a ton of wet manure per acre per day and remove 90 percent of the surface material… A horse pad can disappear underground in 24 hours, leaving only a soft fluffy layer of undigested plant material.”   She always speaks with enthusiasm about the dung beetle.

I do not know how the drought is affecting them, but I do know, they are another reason to totally avoid insecticides, to let natural biodiversity handle the job.  The healthier the soil is, the better.

Dung beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung Beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung Beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013