A new dung beetle has been introduced into Australia as part of the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineer (DBEE) project to control cattle dung for grazing areas in South Australia (SA).
The beetles also work in two different ways, with some species disposing of cow dung via tunnel building, while others use the more well-known method of rolling. Tunnel beetles will create tunnels in the soil to bury the dung whilst rollers roll it into a ball before burying it.
The tunnels in the ground also put air into the soil and allow rainwater to seep in, promoting a healthy environment for microbes and earthworms.
As tunnellers focus on the middle of cowpats whilst rollers take dung from the sides, “working together, both types of beetles disperse dung more quickly, deterring flies from laying eggs,” Caron said.
A single cow can produce up to 12 cowpats a day, and this number becomes significant when multiplied by an entire cattle herd.
Unburied cow dung can also amass in grazing areas, posing as breeding grounds for various infection-carrying pests as well as the buffalo fly which is a blood-sucking parasite that sticks to the cow’s skin, causing irritation.
The DBEE project was undertaken under the help of researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), with the introduction of the species originally intended for 2021, though the pandemic prolonged the waiting period.
Caron said beetles will be mass-reared in a program led by the Charles Sturt University and will be fed for a year or more, with the new species expected to be released in spring 2023.