Dung Beetles

Faces - The Magazine of People, Places and Cultures for KidsJuly/August 2020

Dung Beetles
Navigating by the light of the silvery moon
By Pat Betteley

You probably don’t think too much about dung beetles. Ewww, poop! But they are actually interesting and (ancient) insects that rely on the night sky to survive.

Studies have shown that the dung beetle uses moonlight and the Milky Way to orient itself as it rolls its dung ball along the ground. The brighter the phase of the Moon, the better the insect can navigate. The dung beetle first climbs on top of its dung ball, orients itself using the Moon and stars, and then pushes the ball in a straight line, using its back legs. (The insects have special leg spurs that help them hold, roll, and maneuver the dung ball in reverse.) To prove that bright nights are best, researchers put tiny hats on the dung beetles that blocked their view of the heavens. The insects wandered aimlessly when they were not able to see the stars.

About the Dung Beetle


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July/August 2020