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Dung Beetle

Summary: The Dung beetle may seem gross, but dung beetles play a very important part in ecology. The world might be a lot more disgusting if dung beetles didn't do what they do.

The dung beetle is well known for collecting balls of dung and rolling them up hills. The dung beetle inspired the legend about the Greek hero Sisyphus who, as punishment for defying Zeus, had to repeatedly roll a large boulder up a hill for all eternity. The dung beetle's job of collecting feces might seem unpleasant, but they are doing a tremendous service for mankind and the stability of the natural cycle.

The dung beetle feeds on dung, often that of large herbivores like cows, but there are so many different varieties of dung beetles that there exists a species which cleans up almost every kind of dung, even that of humans. The dung beetle can be found on every continent except Antarctica, but the rollers, as they are commonly known, are most often found in tropical climates. Rollers **have specially adapted legs that enable them to roll balls up to fifty times their own weight. Other kinds of dung beetles are the tunnellers which bury their dung balls in shafts in order to lay their eggs in them. Dwellers actually live in piles of dung.

By collecting, eating and burying dung the dung beetle is very beneficial to agriculture by adding nutrients to the soil. Dung beetles save the cattle industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year by cleaning up excrement that would other wise stay on the ground, killing grass, attracting pests like flies, and generally stinking up the place.

Scarabs are a type of dung beetle that was worshiped in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians held the scarabs sacred and thought they represented the rebirth of the sun each morning. Just as their sun god was thought to create and roll a new sun across the sky each day, the dung beetle creates balls of dung that it rolls across the earth. The beetle was thought to be comprised of only males who deposited sperm into the dung balls, essentially creating life without female dung beetles. We know now that the male collects a ball while the female scarab digs a shaft in which the dung ball is placed. Each ball has one egg deposited inside of it and the larvae feed on the dung upon hatching.

Dung beetles are one kind of insect for which humans can be very grateful. Instead of getting rid of this bug, maybe you could try introducing them into your back yard to clean up after your adorable, but messy dog, Fido.

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