Dung Beetle

Phanaeus vindex

Rattlebox Photography

There are many different species of dung beetles, and many of them go by different names. This page will focus on Phanaeus vindex, usually just called "Dung Beetle," also known as "Rainbow Scarab Beetle."

These dung beetles grow up to 1 inch long. They are very colorful, being mostly metallic green and copper-colored.

Male beetles may have a long horn on their head, though sometimes it may be smaller. Females do not have horns, but they do have a small bump called a "tubercle."

"Dung" is a more scientific way of saying "poop." Dung Beetles are usually found just about anywhere there is animal poop, since this is their main food. They can often be found with other species of dung beetles at "poopy" places.

Patrick Coin

Drees, Texas A&M University Department of Entomology

Adult dung beetles eat poop, but they also need it to feed their young. When two beetles mate, they look for a good food supply (pile of poop). They immediately begin digging burrows underneath the poop.

Once burrows have been dug, both the male and female begin rolling balls of dung to the bottom of each one. The female dung beetle lays an egg inside each dung ball.

Beetle larvae, called grubs, hatch from their eggs and immediately start eating the dung around them. As each grub grows, it gets bigger and bigger. When it is big enough, still inside its dung ball, the grub will change into a pupa (resting stage). Inside its cocoon, the pupa is changing into an adult Dung Beetle.

The adult beetles can dig their way out of their burrows.

SBW, Natural Resource Inventory Database

Copyright, Jay Cossey, http://www.images.on.ca/JayC/

Dung Beetles are active from Spring to Fall. They have an excellent sense of smell and can scent dung from great distances. A fresh pile of poop can attract Dung Beetles in a matter of minutes.

Once a pile of dung has been found, Dung Beetles, along with other dung-eating animals will make it disappear quickly. Sometimes an entire pile can be gone in only a few hours.

Dung Beetles have a very important job in nature. By eating a food that many animals don't want to eat, they put important nutrients back into the soil that can be used by plants and other animals.

North Carolina State University

The diagram above shows the burrows of different kinds of dung beetles. Phanaeus vindex burrows are the type shown on the left in Section I.

Dung Beetles eat the dung of many different animals, but seem to mostly use the poop of large mammals.

Predators of Dung Beetles include birds, bats, reptiles, and other insect-eaters.

Mites, tiny animals related to spiders, often attach themselves to Dung Beetles so they can get a ride to a new dung site. They do not hurt the beetles.

Relationships in Nature:


Blue Jay

Virginia Creeper

Soil Mite C

Big Brown Bat


Blue Bottle Fly EC

Five-lined Skink

Smooth Crabgrass

White-tailed Deer FP

European Starling

Skunk Cabbage

Domestic DogFP

American Crow

Poison Ivy

Red Fox FP

Great Crested Flycatcher

Wild Strawberry

Raccoon FP

Common Grackle

Kentucky Bluegrass

Striped Skunk FP

Red-winged Blackbird

English Plantain

Virginia Opossum FP

Ring-billed Gull

Evergreen Blackberry

Brown-headed Cowbird

Common Dandelion

Eastern Worm Snake

Climbing Bittersweet

American Toad

Relationship to Humans:

Dung Beetles are very helpful to people since they help clean our environment. In addition to getting rid of animal dung, these beetles also control the spread of disease. Dung Beetles add nutrients to soil, making it more healthy. When humans use chemicals pesticides when gardening and farming, they kill many soil animals, including Dung Beetles.


Phanaeus vindex


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