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Scarab Beetle

Scarab Beetle Facts

Size Up to 1.2 in (3.2 cm)
Speed Unknown
Weight Up to 0.07 oz (2 g)
Lifespan Unknown
Food Dung
Predators Birds, bats, reptiles
Habitat Mediterranean area, Africa, Asia, South America
Order Beetles
Family Scarabaeidae
Scientific name Scarabaeus sacer
Characteristics Rolls dung balls while running backwards

Main Characteristics

The scarab beetle belongs to the scarabaeidae family. It forms balls of dung for its offspring and rolls them across the ground with its hind legs.

Scarab Beetle Scarab Beetle - Photo: michael sheehan/Shutterstock


What Do Scarab Beetles Eat?

Looking for food is easy for the scarab. The beetle only has to wait for it to fall from above: It feeds on the dung of other animals.


Scarab Beetle Scarab Beetle - Photo: ShDmFch/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

One of the Strongest Insects in the World

The balls produced by the scarab are up to four times as big as the beetle itself and weigh about 1.4 oz (40 g), which is 20 times its own body weight. To move them, it has a trick: It clamps its ball between his legs, leans against it upside down and rolls it backwards, it has the much power in its legs. Every now an then it has to turn and look around. It also climbs onto the ball to see better.

Scarab Beetle Scarab Beetle - Photo: Katarish/Shutterstock


Where Does the Scarab Beetle Take the Dung Ball?

After having formed the ball, the beetle looks for a suitable quiet place, as a trail used by elephants surely is not the best choice to store food or a breeding ball.

Why Move Forward If You Can Also Go Backwards?

The scarab beetle tucks its ball between its strong legs, leans against it headfirst and rolls the ball walking backwards. Of course the beetle has to turn around now and then to check the surroundings. For this it even likes to climb onto the ball. The beetle digs away the soil and sand below the ball until it lies underground. Now the female beetle proceeds to lay an egg into the ball. After hatching from the egg, the larva can feed on the delicious dung surrounding it.


Scarab Beetle Scarab Beetle - Photo: efendy/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

A Holy Animal in Ancient Egypt

The scarab beetle was worshipped as a holy animal in ancient Egypt. People watched the beetle how it formed little balls, buried them and apparently reappeared after a few weeks. Yet, it was its offspring that returned to the surface. Therefore, the beetle was a resurrection symbol for the Egyptians. Small scarab charms were very popular at that time, not only with the living. Scarabs were also used as burial objects.

Why Is it Called "Pillendreher“ in German?

In German, “Pillendreher“ is an old word for “pharmacist“. In Medieval times, pills had to be formed by hand (every single one!), as people did not have machines for this yet. The scarab beetle is also called “Pillendreher” in German, because it forms little dung balls with its head and jaws.

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