Onitis caffer is a stocky black beetle (15 – 20mm) with an abdomen only slightly longer than the pronotum. There is a distinct depression in the rear of the pronotum. The male has a serrated ridge on the hind femur. All other Onitis males have a single or double spur on the hind leg instead of serrations. It has distinctly impressed striae (grooves) in the wing covers (elytra).
Onitis caffer occupies a range in cooler regions found in the south and in tropical eastern highlands of South Africa. This tunnelling species shows no particular soil association having been trapped on cattle dung in fair numbers on both deep sand and clay soils. It has established in WA, known to exist in the Pinjarra and Gingin areas. Two strains are present in Australia: one adapted to summer-rainfall, the other to winter-rainfall.
Both strains of Onitis caffer are active from autumn to early-mid winter and in, the south west, may become active again in the spring. Flight occurs at dusk and dawn.
Nests of several short sausages, containing 1 -4 eggs are buried up to one metre below the dung pad. Development from egg to adult takes between 10 and 12 months. Onitis caffer emerges and begins to breed in the autumn in both strains, and breeding continues during winter and spring, temperature permitting. In the field O. caffer requires ten to twelve months from oviposition to adult emergence, but a facultative larval diapause, induced in early summer, can delay the emergence of some individuals until autumn one or two years later (Edwards 1986).