Dung beetle team on a roll at UWA

January 7 2022 - 2:00am
Trapping of dung beetles is expected to be completed in the first half of this year, with results expected shortly after.

MANY people know that dung beetles were introduced to Australia to clean away dung lying on pastures.

However, more than 50 years later, the true economic value dung beetles have given the country is still not known.

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At The University of Western Australia School of Biological Sciences and UWA Institute of Agriculture, associate professor Theo Evans is leading research into quantifying how Australian agriculture has benefited from the importation of exotic dung beetles.

"Livestock dung remaining on pastures can be a problem for both farmers and the general public," Dr Evans said.

"Dung left on pasture reduces the amount of feed available for livestock and provides a breeding ground for bushflies.

"Although the importation of exotic dung beetles to Australia is considered an example of a successful biocontrol program, we have surprisingly little information to quantify this."

In 2018, UWA was part of a consortium awarded funding from the Federal government's Rural Research and Development program and Meat & Livestock Australia to establish the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers project.

A key part of this project was attempting to understand how their activity levels varied across seasons and the landscape.

To understand the benefits of dung beetles, School of Biological Sciences research associate Jacob Berson said they first need to know where they were found and when they were active.

For the past three years, project partners have conducted monthly trapping for dung beetles at 120 sites spread across the southern region of Australia.

UWA researchers have been identifying and counting the beetles caught in their traps.

"We've assembled a crack dung beetle sorting team at UWA," Dr Berson said.

"We were pleased that the expertise of this team has been recognised by the awarding of additional funds so that we can continue to process the thousands of samples collected throughout Australia.

Trapping of dung beetles is expected to be completed in the first half of this year, with results expected shortly after.

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