A systematic revision of New Zealand’s native dung beetles has recently been undertaken which will be published soon. New Zealand has a depauperate dung beetle fauna with only 15 species in three genera Saphobius, Saphobiamorpha, and a new genus. All species lack wings and are therefore flightless. They are night active, ball-rollers and relatively small, ranging from 2-15 mm in size. All species are restricted to relatively undisturbed native forest habitat from sea level to 1100m altitude, and are rarely found in open pasture. They are opportunistic feeders utilizing any food source available to them: carrion, humus and faeces (insects, reptile, bird or mammal). Various studies have shown that native dung beetles are often extremely abundant and play a key role in decomposition in New Zealand forests. They are not, however, able to utilise dung in open pasture hence the need to introduce additional species.
Recently Introduced Species For Release Project
Onthophagus binodus: see facts page
Onthophagus taurus: see facts page
Digitonthophagus gazella: see facts page
Geotrupes spiniger: see facts page
Past Introduced Species
The Mexican dung beetle (Copris incertus) is a tropical species that was deliberately introduced in 1956 and successfully established at Whangarei. This beetle has now spread through parts of Northland and South Kaipara regions. The beetle is a tunneller but excavates tomb-like brood chambers underground in which the female makes spherical brood balls of dung in which the grubs develop. Unlike other species, Copris incertus never reaches high levels of abundance on each dung pad. However their presence can be detectedby large soil casts around the faeces where they are nest building.
Several dwelling-type Aphodius dung beetles, and two Australian Onthophagus tunnelling species are widespread and self-introduced, but have little impact because they are not abundant enough and are too small to move large volumes of dung. There are also several species of small abundant black hydrophilid beetles that frequent dung but are not considered dung beetles.