Why care about Dung Beetles

Dung beetles are a highly diverse group of invertebrates, which provide a whole host of benefits to the environment. The benefits, or ‘ecosystem services’, provided by dung beetles vary from species to species. Consequently, having a diverse range of species is crucial in maximising the function of the ecosystem services provided.

Many services provided by dung beetles have significant economic benefits for farmers and landowners. Ecosystem services and associated benefits provided by dung beetles include:

Dung removal

Dung beetles reduce pasture fouling by breaking down dung quickly, removing the need for harrowing to break up the dung, or ‘poo picking’ with horses. They reduce the time that dung is present on the surface of pasture and increase the turnover of available grazing area.

Reworking soils

In the process of burying dung, the soil is reworked by dung beetles, providing beneficial physical changes to the soil. Bioturbation is thought to be a key primary driver of biodiversity.

Pest suppression

By breaking the dung down quickly the dung beetles are removing the habitats conditions required for parasites and pest flies to complete their lifecycle.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Dung that is not being broken down by dung beetles remains on the pasture surface and forms a hard crust by the wind and sun. While it remains on the surface it is able to continue fermenting producing methane.

Improving soil quality and structure

Burying dung increases the recycling of nutrients back into soil, and the burrows dug by tunnelling dung beetles reduce soil compaction.

Reducing surface runoff, improving water infiltration

Tunnelling dung beetles dig burrows, which increases the permeability of soil and reduces the chance of soil erosion, pollution of watercourses and surface runoff. As a result, dung beetles may also contribute towards a reduction in flood risk.

Increased biodiversity

The presence of dung beetles is a key indicator of a healthy micro-habitat ecosystem. By taking the dung down into the ground they increase soil fauna activity.

A source of prey for other wildlife

Dung beetles, both as adults and larvae, are a major part in the diet of other wildlife, including bats and wading birds