T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Beetle (Dung, Humpbacked) Onthophagus binodis

Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Class:     Insecta
Order:     Coleoptera
Family:     Scarabaeidae
Subfamily:     Scarabaeinae
Genus:     Onthophagus
Species: O. binodis
Binominail name: Onthophagus binodis
Synonym : Onthophagus columella
Common name: Humpbacked dung beetle

Onthophagus columella is a matt black, 10-13 mm long dung beetle that is native to South Africa where annual rainfall exceeds 500 mm. It was introduced to New Zealand after an exhaustive research and consultation process. When the dung of large grazing animals is buried by dung beetles, the soil health is improved which increases pasture productivity. Dung removal also reduces water and nutrient runoff, as well as the re-infection of livestock by parasitic worms. There are human health benefits because the habitat of flies which spread disease is removed.

The beetle Onthophagus columella when viewed from the side there can be seen a distinct shoulder ridge. This species does not have horns. The adults make tunnels in the soil beneath the faeces in which they then bury balls of dung and then lay their eggs in them. As the eggs hatch the grubs feed on the dung so they break it down and eventually turn it into a sawdust-like material that adds to the fertility of the soil structure. The buried dung is also utilised by earthworms and micro organisms in the soil that make the nutrients available for uptake by grass roots. Buried dung has been shown to increase earthworm numbers, increase soil fertility, improved soil structure, and increase the depth at which grass roots grow. Consequently grass becomes more drought tolerant. The beetle’s presence can be detected by large soil casts


A video on the benefits of Dung Beetles to farming.
Dung Beetles are fascinating insects, working tirelessly to bury dung around the country. As soon as you begin to understand the importance of these little creatures as one of nature’s greatest recyclers, you will never look at a pile of dung the same way.




A lifecycle of a dung beetle (Modified from Bornemissza 1976)