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Dung beetles

Dung beetles play a critical role in Australia’s grazing ecosystems. By burying dung in the soil, beetles improve the flow of water, nutrients and carbon into the root zones of pastures, which in turn:

  • boosts pasture productivity (dung beetles can increase the pasture growth response by ~30% over a two-year period)
  • prevents build-up of flies and nematodes, leading to improved animal health and productivity
  • assists producers to sequester carbon and contribute towards a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information on dung beetles, see below or visit dungbeetles.com.au:

Benefits

 Dung beetles provide a number of benefits for the ecosystem, resulting in improved productivity for Australian producers:

Five benefits of dung beetles
  1. Sequester carbon in the soil, assisting producers to reduce emissions
  2. Improve soil health in grazing systems
  3. Reduce the spread of diseases and insect pests, including flies and parasites
  4. Increase pasture health and productivity
  5. Reduce nutrient run-off into waterways.

 

Watch: The benefits of dung beetles for livestock producers

Watch this video to find out more about the benefits of dung beetles for livestock producers.

Video courtesy of Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers.

Considerations before introducing dung beetles

What should producers consider before introducing dung beetles on their property?

Firstly, producers should identify which beetle species are currently present on their property – see ‘What species are near me?’ below.

This is important as different beetles are active at different times of the year (see ‘Introduced species in Australia’), and gaps in activity will require different beetles to be introduced for maximum benefit.

Producers should select a supplier who specialises in distributing beetles to their region. Beetle suppliers will be able to assist in the appropriate steps for each producer to take to ensure successful introduction.

A list of current suppliers.

Introduced species in Australia

 The following introduced dung beetle species can be found in Australia.

Spring to autumn active species

Species

Length

Flight time

Distribution

Copris elphenor

20–25mm

Night

Queensland (Biloela)

Euoniticellus fulvus

8–12mm

Day

WA, SA, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania

Euoniticellus intermedius

7–9mm

Day

Throughout Australia except very dry and southern-most regions

Euoniticellus pallipes

9–12mm

Day

WA, SA, Victoria, NSW

Euoniticellus africanus

8–13mm

Day

South-east Queensland, eastern NSW

Liatongus militaris

8–10mm

Day

Queensland, NT, north-east NSW

Onitis alexis

13–20mm

Dusk and dawn

Throughout Australia, except Tasmania

Onitis aygulus

20–25mm

Dusk and dawn

WA, SA, Victoria, NSW

Onitis pecuarius

15–20mm

Dusk and dawn

South-east Queensland, eastern NSW

Onitis vanderkelleni

15–20mm

Dusk and dawn

Queensland (Atherton Tablelands and Gold Coast)

Onitis viridulus

18–23mm

Dusk and dawn

Queensland, NT, north-east WA, north-east NSW

Onthophagus binodis

11–13mm

Day

WA, SA, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, south-east Queensland

Onthophagus gazelle

10–13mm

Dusk and dawn

Northern and eastern Australia

Onthophagus nigriventris

10–12mm

Day

Coastal NSW, south-east and highland tropical Queensland

Onthophagus taurus

8–10mm

Day

WA, SA, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW

Sisyphus rubrus

 

6–8mm

Day

Central NSW, southern and eastern Queensland

Autumn to spring active species

Species

Length

Flight time

Distribution

Copris hispanus

16–26mm

Night

WA (near Williams)

Onitis caffer

 

15–20mm

Dusk and dawn

WA, NSW, south-east Queensland

Bubas bison

 

13–19mm

Dusk and dawn

WA, SA, Victoria, southern NSW

 

Spring to winter active species

Species

Length

Flight time

Distribution

Geotrupes spiniger

 

20–25mm

Dusk and dawn

Tasmania, Victoria,  south-east and north-east NSW

Sisyphus spinipes

 

9–11mm

Day

Queensland, north-east NSW

Summer active species

Species

Length

Flight time

Distribution

Onthophagus sagittarius

 

10–13mm

Dusk and dawn

Coastal QLD, NT, far north-east NSW

Late winter to midsummer active species

Species

Length

Flight time

Distribution

Onthophagus vacca

 

7–13mm

Day

Now being distributed in select locations

Bubas bubalus

 

13–22mm

Night

Not yet established

What species are near me?

Use this interactive map to find the dung beetle species known to be present near you.

Case studies and articles

Get involved

The Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project is currently rearing beetles for distribution to selected sites. These include new species of beetles that are currently not widely available in Australia.

To register your interest in participating in the project, visit: dungbeetles.com.au/get-involved

In addition, producers can report which beetles are located on-farm to assist with DBEE project monitoring using the DBEE phone app.

Contact

Doug McNicholl

Program Manager – Sustainability and CN30
E: dmcnicholl@mla.com.au

Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE)

E: dungbeetle@csu.edu.au
W: dungbeetles.com.au
F: DBEE Facebook page