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Dung Beetle Care?

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I've got Orin's Ultimate Guide on the way, but I'm pretty sure my Phanaeus vindex adults will be arriving before it does. Anyone have any experience with this who can offer some basic housing and care tips?


I'm not planning on breeding them, but I'd like for the conditions to be available for them to do so in the event instinct wins.


I'm especially interested in environment temperatures, as I am pretty confident that temperature in my beetle room has absolutely harmed my larvae in the past. The room lives at 72f now.

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They need a somewhat warm area, they can eat jellies and such, although much prefer their native food (herbivore dung, Ive heard that cow and human work well) the substrate can just be soil, they dont need rotten wood or anything like that. They prefer a higher humidity with high airflow (a vented lid would be good) and are diurnal. If the room gets hot, they wont need a lightbulb. Hope this helps!

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If the room gets hot, they wont need a lightbulb.

How hot are we talking? Garage typically sits at 110f in the summer. I'm sure I could rig something up on a timer to spray the container once a day or so. It's so godawful dry here that I expect it would dry out too quickly otherwise.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update/Observations time:


After @Bugboy3092's advice and poring over Orin's Ultimate Guide, I've come to the conclusion that my current beetle room should be fine, though on the lower end of preferred temperature (bumped to 74f). Due to the installation of the AC unit I had to install to better regulate the room the blinds have to be open quite a ways anyway, so the room experiences a natural day/night cycle. My only other options are the garage or the back patio, and since the patio thermometer typically reads 115-120f (in the shade) and the garage normally reads 100-110f in the summer, neither of those is going to be acceptable.


I've got my 7 Phanaeus vindex in an 18 gallon plastic tote I was previously using as a Dynastes tityus ovipositing container, in the same sub as well (organic top soil). The lid has been replaced with a 1/8" plexiglass sheet to allow for plenty of light to make it in during the day. The lid has a good amount of holes drilled in it for ventilation. Interestingly enough, even with the fair number of holes in the lid, pretty much no smell escapes unless you put your face right above and close to the lid (in which case you deserve whatever you smell). I think the container is a bit over-crowded, so I will be splitting them into 2 groups the first time that I dig for brood balls. I'm also going to be replacing about a third of the substrate with paver sand per the Ultimate Guide, mixed in, of course.


Unfortunately, my source for horse dung (no cow available that I could find within a reasonable distance) sold it out from under me on Thursday, so I won't have any for them until today (Monday) or tomorrow. In the mean time, I've given them 3 different types of dung that I'm not going to go into, none of which are ideal, all of equal freshness, and they've actually attacked what I know to be the most protein-rich/least herbivorous dung, all but burying the sizable pile in a day's time.


Speaking of a day's time: despite being diurnal, I have yet to see them at all during the daytime. When making sure everything is turned off for bed around midnight each night however, I will typically either see one or 2 on the surface, or see one of the dung piles... uh... pulsating. I'm wondering if they need increased heat during the day as well as the change in light to encourage their natural schedule, and I've been thinking about a heat lamp, though I'm not sure how I would rig it to their container setup, and heaving both a dedicated (and opposing) AC and heat lamp in the same room gives me a bit of a headache when thinking about my power bill.


I have not witnessed them take any interest in the available beetle jellies in their container, and it may simply be that with the availability of dung they just don't need it.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Life has been kicking my ass, and been having internet issues at home, so haven't been posting.


Update/Observations time:


So the beetles definitely had more than enough dung for 4-5 dung balls per Orin's Ultimate Guide, and I waited for 7 days past when the dung was all gone from the surface of their tank before digging for brood balls to make sure I didn't interrupt construction. I found no brood balls. I didn't even find anything that appeared to be a half-formed brood ball. I found a couple small clumps of dung, but they didn't look like they'd been handled at all by the beetles beyond being buried.


The way P vindex folds up their legs and plays dead when disturbed makes them really easy to miss when digging through sub, and I thought I lost 2 of them, but they were found during mixing sand into the sub. I currently have about 3:1 organic top soil:sand. The sub feels very different with the sand mixed in, and of course weighs a damn ton.


After mixing the sand in about 2.5 - 3 weeks ago, I haven't seen the beetles once. Not once. I was actually wondering if I stressed them all to death, as there was a solid week in which two fresh piles of dung weren't touched at all, and went to white mold. I should've taken it out, but I left it just in case they didn't care, but unfortunately the mold spreads rapidly once it establishes a foothold, and the next two baseball-sized amounts of dung I gave them were completely covered in mold within a day and a half or less.


It was yesterday morning that I noticed the 1.5-day-old piles were also molded-over, so I was going to remove it all yesterday when I got home from work. I noticed when I got home, though, that there was a fresh pile of sandy substrate mounded up between the 4 dung piles, which is the first evidence I've seen of the beetles being alive in a week or more, so I put it off. This morning, I peeked through the lid and found that the two fresher piles of dung are completely gone from the top of the substrate, and the older two moldy piles are pulled down into the sub and mostly buried in more of the sandy substrate. The mold on them looks to have been crawled all over, as it looks more like a white mat/crust now rather than fuzzy.


Still haven't seen the beetles, unfortunately, but at least a few of them are alive.


They haven't touched the 4 jellies in their container. In fact, 3 of the jellies have grown a tiny bit of mold which I picked off yesterday. I didn't even know jellies would mold, as I've never had them survive this long with adult beetles before.


Now, onto full disclosure: They're getting human dung. I'm ashamed, but only a little. For what it's worth, I don't feel great about it, and my wife simply cannot know.


What I did find when I dug for brood balls was a good handful of fly pupae. I collected them and threw them in a deli cup with no holes in the lid. Apparently, there were more that I missed, because there was an obnoxious boom in housefly activity in my house a couple weeks ago. I'm positive that they hitch-hiked in with the horse dung I was finally able to get, and since horse dung isn't supposed to be great for dung beetles anyway I'm disinclined to try it again. The other types of dung that I experimented with were dog, rat, and human. This was the initial week or so that I had them, and it was the human dung I mentioned them attacking the quickest in my last update. Unfortunately, our rat has died, so that source is gone. The dog dung was the second slowest to be consumed, so I'm not thinking they like it, which makes sense. Since someone with a LOT more experience than myself mentioned human dung probably not being good for rearing, I found someone with a pot-bellied pig and talked them out of some dung, which I offered at the same time as some more human dung. This was the two piles that didn't get touched for a week and got moldy. The pig dung still doesn't appear to have been touched other than being mostly buried just below the surface. The two newest piles of dung that were completely taken/buried as of this morning were both human (as the pig owner wasn't available for me to pick up more).


Since P vindex doesn't live all that long I'm not sure how long to wait now before digging for brood balls. Last time it was 7 days past the disappearance of all of the dung and I found nothing. I'm not sure if the week or so of no activity was due to them being busy "underground" forming and tending brood balls (I hope so). I know that the Ultimate Guide says to check 7 days after the last dung disappears, which is what I did last time, but I'd hate to interrupt brood ball forming at this point with such limited time with them left and as slow as they appear to be with propagating.


One small novel later, I'm done. Back to observing and hoping for eggs.

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Three thoughts I wanted to post:


1. Dung beetles will not be interested in jelly while there is dung available.


2. They may bury and eat off of dung with a lot of fly maggots in it, but will most likely not make a brood ball from it. If you hadn't switched to human, I would have suggested freezing the dung first to kill anything in it.


3. You should be able to make a pretty tight ball if you squeeze your substrate in your hand. I never really added sand to my substrate, just sifted dirt from the yard. You might give it a test-squeeze.

...Also, the bottom section of the substrate in your setup should be compressed. Try to recreate what they find in nature: loose substrate on top and compressed below that.



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