Dung beetles doing a great job
THE FARMER’S friend and our inspiration to place a peg across our nostrils has arrived on the Fraser Coast for the New Year.
The dung beetles have flown in in the wake of our wet and warm weather and the determined little critters are doing a great job.
Dung beetles, or dung busters as some dub them, play a remarkable role in our agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient cycling and soil structure.
The beetles also protect livestock by removing the dung, which, if left, can provide habitat for pests such as flies. Buffalo and bush flies have visibly been reduced since the beetles were brought into Queensland from Africa and Europe in the 1970s and early ’80s.
Dung burial – a beetle artform in itself – reduces the infective stages of gastrointestinal parasites of livestock. The creatures also clean up pastures and replace nutrients in the soil. The beetles’ tunnels result in greater water retention and less run-off and they improve root penetration and soil aeration.
It costs about $400 to buy a starter colony of about 1500 beetles.
The nice thing about these dung busters is they have been observed to also eat dog poo in suburban yards.
One type of dung beetle rolls the dung into spherical balls, which are used as a food source or brooding chambers.
Others are dwellers that neither roll nor burrow: they simply live in manure.
So this summer if you see a black, brown or purplish-yellow beetle, maybe with a metallic lustre, happily munching on your dung, leave it be.
This is one beetle that is extremely useful – in spite of the odour that sometimes accompanies it.
And besides, dung busters have a very strong sense of smell so it may be they take offence to us too.