Onthophagus taurus (introduced)

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Onthophagus taurus (female) without horns. Arrows point to pronotum has a rounded ridge across the front, clypeal ridge on head and frontal ridge on head. The Dungbeetle Ecosystem Engineers logo is in the top left corner.

Onthophagus taurus (major male). Arrows point to long, curved horns and shiny black pronotum. The Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers logo is in the top left corner.

Onthophagus taurus (minor male) Close up photo of dung beetle. Arrows point to horns on a minor male are short and upright.

Size

8–10 mm

Colour

Shiny black

Horns

Major males have long, curved horns; females have none

Minor males

Very short horns extending upwards from back of head

Flight time

Day

Active seasons

Spring to autumn

Distribution in Australia

Victoria, WA, SA, Tas, NSW

Map of Australia showing O taurus distributed across WA, SE S.A, NSW, Vic and Tasmania

South West Prime Lamb Group (SWPLG) demonstrations

O. taurus has been the most commonly found introduced dung beetle in SWPLG traps, occurring in large numbers at all host properties. Throughout summer, some sites caught enough beetles overnight to fill a 2.5L container. They’re a small beetle, but in large numbers they’re capable of shredding a dung pat within a day, making them valuable for cleaning pastures and controlling bush flies, particularly over summer/autumn. O. taurus will bury (rather than shred) at other times of the season.

Lifecycle

Development from egg to adult takes 8–10 weeks depending on soil temperature, and there are at least two generations a year. The adults build nesting areas with several brood balls, approximately 10–15 cm below the dung pat. Each brood ball has one egg.

Interesting facts

O. taurus can pull 1140 times its own body weight – the equivalent of a 70-kilogram person being able to lift 80 tonnes, the weight of six double-decker buses (ABC Science).

Minor males apparently compensate for their much smaller horns by having huge testicles, increasing their chances of fertilising a female (ABC Science).

Dung burial

O. taurus buries dung to around 10–15 cm. These beetles are not too discerning about the species providing a dung source. You may find even them shredding dog dung.

Preferences and establishment

The number of beetles present on a farm is largely dependent on the amount of dung available. Beetles can be introduced as starter colonies or from farms with an ample population. A list of dung beetle suppliers can be found on the Dung Beetle Ecosystems Engineers link below, many of which can provide O. taurus.

Acknowledgments and references

Page last updated: 21 Nov 2022