Dung beetles are often categorized according to their nesting and breeding behaviour, each type forming a so called functional groups. Four different functional groups are generally recognised – the “rollers”, the “dwellers”, the “tunnellers” and the “stealers”.
The “rollers” or telecoprids are often the ones seen on TV, forming a ball of dung and rolling it away to provision an underground nest. These are all tropical or sub tropical species, there are no telecoprids in the temperate climate of the UK.
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 Aphodius species, which range in size from 3 – 15mm.
The “tunnellers”, or paracoprids are often larger species, ranging in size from 6-25mm and include Onthophagus, Geotrupes (Dor beetles) and Typhaeus (Minotaur beetle). As the name implies, these beetles dig into the soil, dragging the dung down to provision an underground brood chamber in which the larvae develop. 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 “stealers” or kleptocoprids do not collect their own dung but instead steal dung or a nest site from the others.