Tumblebugs

Canthon spp.

tumblebug_2012.jpg

image of Tumblebug with fecal ball
Tumblebugs in the genus Canthon create two kinds of dung balls: brood balls, to lay eggs in and for their larvae to eat, and food balls, for the adults to consume. Face down, the males roll the balls backward, pushing it along with their hind legs. The female often rides the ball of dung or helps the male to push.
Donna Brunet
Family

Scarabaeidae (scarab beetles) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)

Description

Tumblebugs in the genus Canthon create two kinds of dung balls: brood balls, to lay eggs in and for their larvae to eat, and food balls, for the adults to consume. Face down, the males roll the balls backward, pushing it along with their hind legs. The female often rides the ball of dung or helps the male to push.

There are about 20 species in this genus in North America north of Mexico, and they can be difficult to tell apart. These beetles are smooth, rounded, and plain black. A few species have an iridescent green sheen. As with other dung beetles, the forelegs are powerful and spined, because these beetles have a lot of hard work to do.

Learn more about tumblebugs and other dung beetles in their group entry.

Size

Length: ¼–¾ inch (varies with species).

Habitat and conservation

Dung beetles are usually seen on, near, and beneath poop. They are sometimes seen rolling dung balls away from the original heap, heads down and pushing the ball backward with their hind legs. The adults often fly to lights at night. Although initially revolting, the feeding habits of dung beetles are intensely fascinating. Plant material is difficult to animals to digest, and dung beetles capitalize on nutrients that pass undigested through a mammal’s digestive tract.