Mönchberg (dpa) – The feces-eating beetle will be the insect of 2024. Experts at the German Senckenberg Entomology Institute in Mönchberg, Brandenburg, chose the bull beetle from a number of suggestions, the institute announced. This animal, which belongs to the dung beetle family, plays a major role in ecosystems, but its numbers are declining alarmingly, according to the institute.
The size of the bull beetle (Typhaeus typhoeus) ranges between 14 and 20 mm. The name comes from its three horns, the outer two of which point forward like a bull. They are used in battles with competitors and to protect nesting sites. Thomas Schmitt, director of the Senckenberg Institute and chairman of the board of trustees, explained that the beetle represents a powerful force. He can pull more than a thousand times his own body weight.
“Beetles use this force to push the feces of rabbits, deer, cattle, sheep or horses into the narrow passages of their ball-shaped breeding chambers as food for their offspring,” says Schmidt. To do this, bull beetles dig a shaft up to 1.50 meters deep into the ground after mating. In chambers, the feces are shaped like a pellet, next to which the female lays an egg. The larva of the bull beetle hatches from the egg, crawls to this brood and feeds there.
A sharp decline in population around the world
Dung beetles ensure that waste quickly disappears from the soil surface, explains Werner Scholz, who was involved in the selection of Nabu. “Beetles also regulate the development of helminths and flies in mammalian feces, enhance plant seed transfer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially from cow manure.”
Since the mid-1980s, entomologists have recorded a sharp decline in their numbers worldwide. Reason: Grazing animals increasingly receive antihelminthic medications as a preventative measure. The active ingredients are excreted by animals and reach the beetles in the feces on which they feed. “As a result, the beetles (red: feces-eating) die or reproduce only to a limited extent,” says Schulz.
Scientists consider the decline in dung and dung beetle numbers to be a large part of the massive global loss of insect fauna. To combat this, the use of antiparasitics in pets and farm animals must be reduced, according to Board of Trustees Chairman Schmidt. If possible, farm animals should also be kept on pastures rather than in stables.
© dpa-infocom, dpa:231130-99-128642/2
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