“Hey Australia, you’re full of shit!” is what I assume a group of imported dung beetles would say if they had the ability to speak.
The CSIRO and Charles Sturt University have imported three species of dung beetle to Australia, including a new species from Morocco called G. sturmi.
Somehow, this is the latest dung beetle species to be imported by the national science body (having imported more than 1,500 species previously), with the beetle offshoot known to be pretty good at waste disposal.
Anyway, why’s the humble dung beetle back in the news? Well, Charles Sturt University is going to be fostering these dung beetles and getting them all tooled up for paddock life.
The thought process is simple: if dung beetles are introduced to grazing paddocks, then they could potentially help the farmers in a variety of ways. By burying the dung, which dung beetles do thanklessly and with much glee I imagine, bushfires are mitigated, nutrients are made available to plants in the soil, the soil is aerated and nutrient loss is minimalised. The life cycles of intestinal parasites (that effect grazing cattle) will also be disrupted by the presence of dung beetles.
“We are currently in the process of investigating the full economic potential these dung beetles can have for livestock producers,” said Professor Leslie Weston from Charles Sturt University’s Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers Project.
“Early estimates indicate this figure could represent up to a $100 per hectare benefit to producers in the intensively grazed areas of the country.”
Already, 450 G. sturmi beetles have arrived at Charles Sturt University to kick off the program. G. sturmi measure at 1.5 centimetres and are distinct from the two other breeds of dung beetle introduced as a part of this latest import. It’ll join 23 other dung beetle species that have been introduced to Australia since the 1960s.
“The first two species are tunnellers, meaning they burrow dung straight into the ground to house their eggs and feed their larvae. G. sturmi behaves differently as it prefers to gather chunks of dung into a ball-like shape before rolling it away to bury it,” said Doctor Valerie Caron, the leader of Charles Sturt University’s dung beetle project.
The beetles will be raised at a facility near Wagga Wagga in NSW in an environment mimicking paddock conditions. Eventually, the offspring of these beetles will be distributed to monitoring sites across NSW and Victoria.
Go you funky little bugs, you bury that dung and roll around in it!
This project is a collaboration between Charles Sturt University, the CSIRO, Meat and Livestock Australia, the University of Western Australia, the University of New England, and numerous producer and land care groups.
If you’d like to learn more about the dung beetle project, you can find out more here.