What Animals Eat Dirt? 8 Examples with Pictures!

Do you enjoy gardening like me? Then you must be aware that several creatures help improve the quality of your soil. But did you know that most of these creatures improve soil quality by consuming it? In other words, several animals on earth eat dirt.

Animals that eat dirt

  • Earthworms
  • Caterpillars
  • Beetle
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Termites
  • Cattle
  • Elephants
  • Parrots

Take earthworms, for instance, these wriggly creatures eat dirt, and by doing so, they increase the nutrient content of the soil.

I learned this from a fellow gardener when I started complaining to her about earthworms in my garden. I was under the impression that these creatures would destroy my plants.

But she told me that this would help to improve the quality of my garden soil.

In this article, we will discuss eight animals that eat dirt and how your soil is improved by the creatures doing so.

List of animals that eat dirt:

1. Earthworms

earthworm eating dirt 18042022

When I started discussing with my friend about the earthworm, she told me that they serve the purpose of improving the nutrient content of the soil.

Earthworms’ digestive systems help add minerals and nutrients to the soil.

Along with the dirt, earthworms can consume other dead and decaying materials mixed with dirt and their digestive system also breaks these down.

All of these add to the soil that the earthworms have consumed, and when the dirt passes out of the earthworms, the nutrient content of the soil increases significantly.

Research has shown that earthworms release four times more phosphorous to the topsoil than other organic methods of adding the particular mineral to the soil.

Thus, earthworms are pretty beneficial to gardeners and farmers as these creatures can significantly improve soil quality by consuming them.

2. Caterpillars

caterpillars eating dirt 18042022

Like earthworms, caterpillars can also help improve soil quality by adding nutrients to it.

You will find that leaf-eating caterpillars are the best for improving the soil’s quality.

The common notion is that leaf-eating caterpillars are a pest and can destroy your harvest.

This is not wrong because these caterpillars can destroy young plants and leafy vegetables. But these creatures can also consume dirt.

The digestive system of the caterpillars will add nutrients to the soil. Therefore when the soil comes out of their system, this is high-quality soil.

3. Beetle

beetle eating dirt 18042022

Beetles are unique insects that can consume several types of decomposing items.

For example, beetles can eat all plant-based and animal-based decomposing materials.

You will find that ground beetles consume the decomposing plant and animal-based materials along with the soil on which these are found.

In your home, anything that can become dirty has the potential to attract beetles. Plants can sometimes become dirty and hence, become attractive to beetles.

Beetles can burrow into the root system of plants and consume the soil as well as the roots.

But you will find that the insects are attracted more to the dead and decaying plants than the fresh ones.

4. Hermit crab

hermit crab eating dirt 18042022

Hermit crabs are omnivorous creatures and scavengers by nature. Hence, you will find that these creatures look for nourishing food everywhere, including dirt.

If you have a pet hermit crab, you will find that the creature can consume dirt full of nutrients. 

Hermit crabs are not fussy about their food.

You will find that these creatures can consume pellets of dirt if it has sufficient nutrients for the crabs.

For example, if there are tiny insects in the pellet of dirt, the creature will consume the entire pellet to consume the insects.

Hermit crabs molt, and while molting, they have to depend on soil to provide them with necessary nutrition.

Therefore, if you have a pet hermit crab, ensure that your aquarium has good quality soil so that it has access to all the necessary nutrition.

5. Termites

termites eating dirt 18042022

Termites can eat several types of organic materials and are known to impact the quality of soil on which these are found.

Termites can break down organic material and convert these into primary minerals that can enhance the quality of the soil.

Research has shown that termites have a significant impact on soil quality. For example, termite nest building can help redistribute organic matter in a particular region.

When termites build a nest, you will find that the minerals, OM, and nutrients present in the region’s soil get redistributed.

In addition, termites are known for recycling, foraging, and aiding the decaying of organic material. These can help improve soil quality, and termites do this by consuming dirt.

6. Cattle

spotted cow 05032022

Farmers raising cattle have often observed that cows tend to consume dirt. However, there are several reasons for this peculiar behavior with cows.

The first reason for the particular behavior of the cows is that they are suffering from a mineral deficit.

Cows that suffer from phosphorus or salt deficiency are sometimes drawn toward consuming dirt.

The other reason cows consume dirt is a lack of fiber or another suitable food source.

But once they get access to dry hay or grass, you will find that cows will stop consuming dirt.

Another thing that farmers have observed about cows is that when their compartments change, or they are brought into milking parlors, they tend to dig holes and consume dirt.

It is often out of insecurity that they behave in this particular way, and after some time, they overcome this habit.

7. Elephants

elephants eating 18042022

Elephants are herbivores, and they need to eat large quantities of plant-based food to fulfill their voracious appetite.

But elephants, like many creatures of the animal kingdom, are pathological consumers of soil or dirt.

They need to consume soil to fulfill their requirements for certain minerals like salt, calcium, and phosphorus.

Now you might argue that these minerals are present in plants, but there is not a sufficient amount in plant-based organic material to meet the need of an elephant.

Therefore elephants need to consume soil to meet this mineral deficit.

The unique feature of the digestive system of elephants is that they can consume large quantities of soil, and these will pass out of the system through their feces without hurting the creature.

Thus, the elephant is one of the few creatures that can consume soil without getting hurt by the large particles.

8. Parrots

parrot eating dirt 18042022

This is something new that I learned because you usually do not associate that birds can eat dirt. But parrots are one of the few birds that can eat dirt.

The primary reason parrots are drawn towards soil is that some soils are rich in sodium.

Parrots often suffer from sodium deficit, and to meet this requirement, you will find these birds consuming soil.

If you have a pet parrot, you will be careful about supplying it with the necessary food with all the nutrients and minerals, but in the wild, it is soil that provides the minerals that the bird cannot find from nuts, fruits, seeds, and insects.


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