Introducing dung1 beetles into a pasture is a simple process: approximately 1,500 beetles
are released, a handful at a time, into fresh cow pats2 in the cow pasture. The beetles
immediately disappear beneath the pats digging and tunnelling and, if they successfully
adapt to their new environment, soon become a permanent, self-sustaining part of the
local ecology. In time they multiply and within three or four years the benefits to the
pasture are obvious.
Dung beetles work from the inside of the pat so they are sheltered from predators such
as birds and foxes. Most species burrow into the soil and bury dung in tunnels directly
underneath the pats, which are hollowed out from within. Some large species originating
from France excavate tunnels to a depth of approximately 30 cm below the dung pat.
These beetles make sausage-shaped brood chambers along the tunnels. The shallowest
tunnels belong to a much smaller Spanish species that buries dung in chambers that hang
like fruit from the branches of a pear tree. South African beetles dig narrow tunnels of
approximately 20 cm below the surface of the pat. Some surface-dwelling beetles,
including a South African species, cut perfectly-shaped balls from the pat, which are
rolled away and attached to the bases of plants.