Dung beetles are often categorised according to their nesting and breeding behaviour with four groups being recognised – the “rollers”, the “tunnellers”, the “dwellers” and the “stealers”.
The “rollers” or telecoprids form a ball of dung and roll it away to provision an underground nest in which the larvae develop. These are the dung beetles often seen on the TV but they are all tropical or sub tropical species, there are no telecoprids in the British Isles.
The “tunnellers”, or paracoprids rank amongst the largest of the British dung beetles, ranging in size from 6-25mm and include Onthophagus (small tunnellers) and Geotrupes (Dor Beetles). As the name implies, these beetles dig into the soil, dragging the dung down to provision an underground brood chamber. Unlike the telecoprids, the paracoprids do not relocate dung to do this but dig directly below the dung pile. The excavated soil and tunnel holes, which can measure up to 20mm in diameter, can often be seen underneath or next to dung piles.
The “dwellers” or endocoprids live, eat and breed within the dung. Females lay their eggs either in the dung or just underneath and once hatched, the larvae munch through the poo. The majority of British dung beetles are endocoprids and these are the Aphodiines, which range in size from 3 – 15mm.
The “stealers” or kleptocoprids do not collect their own dung but instead steal dung or a nest site from the others.