The Benefits of Dung Beetles
During the 1990’s my organisation, called Rivers Australia, held seminars and meetings designed to help overcome damage to the river systems. During that time government organisations were publishing reports on the effect of the Dung Beetle for removing cattle waste from the soil, as they noticed happened in Europe. The Australian species is adept at removing kangaroo and other droppings from native species but not cattle.
WHAT THEY DO:
1. BURY THE DUNG. They carry the dung underground. In videos they are shown rolling dung into balls and then pushing them into their holes where they are kept as a food source. Dung is often eaten by animals, such as dogs, because there is nourishment in it. Research showed they carry 90% of the nitrogen in this material underground.
2. IMPROVE SOIL QUALITY. By putting the waste into the earth they effectively improve the soil so that better crops grow. Animal farmers often spell paddocks from cattle and grow wheat, barley, or other grain to increase their income and produce food for their herds. They harvest hay from the soil as well. The difference between hay and straw is in the time the product is cut.
Hay is harvested before the seed pods appear so that it retains the natural benefits from which animals drive nutrition. Hay, on the other hand, is the remaining stalks after the thresher has collected the grain. It can then be used for bedding, compost, or protection of garden beds in the horticultural industry.
The improved soil helps to greatly increase their yield of all these crops. Studies showed that essential minerals, nitrogen, phosphorous, and sulphur, was 80% higher where dung beetles are active.
3. REDUCE FLY STRIKE. The dung is unable to be used by flies for breeding purposes and this cuts down the number of those insects that are such a pest around farms. The benefits from this aspect alone is so valuable because sheep are prone to fly strike where maggots hatch from eggs laid around their hind region. They are then eaten by them as they mature.
4. WORM CONTROL. Experiments showed they reduce infective worm populations breeding in dung by up to 85%
5. IMPROVE WATER QUALITY IN RIVERS. Thanks to the dung beetle there is less fecal material polluting the rivers and stifling native plant and fish species.
6. LESS CHEMICALS IN THE ENVIRONMENT. Because of drenching of animals susceptible to fly strikes in pesticides and the use of other chemicals these materials were washed into the rivers. In places where they settled fish, platypus, and other native species died out. With a reduction in the use of them they are returning and rivers have improved water quality.
7. IMPROVED PASTURE: Cattle will not feed where dung builds up and they excrete some 12 pads of it in a day per animal. It then takes a long time for it to break down. This meant farmers needed to move cattle around in order to keep their feed fresh. This is no longer a problem as the waste is removed and consequently saves farmers time and money.
SUPPLIES OF DUNG BEETLES
It appears that this is another industry attached to that of agriculture as the beetles are bred into commercial quantities. The cost of a thousand is around $700 and for large farms this is expensive as many times that number are required.
Estimates of some 160 different species of the beetle would be required to cover the Australian conditions, which vary so much from place to place. Temperature, drought, floods, and such were just some of the problems they would face. The CSIRO used their labs in Pretoria, South Africa, to conduct most of their research.
It wasn’t until the late 1990’s that farmers were able to access the beetles and utilise all of their benefits. The amount of research and the length of time taken to satisfy all the requirements has been extensive but so many other considerations were required before they were successfully released with assurance that they would not harm the native beetle or cause other problems.
Now people can dine outside without fly wire surrounding them and the other problems farmers faced have been greatly diminished. Thanks to the insight of Dr. Bornemissza, who came to Australia from Hungary in 1951, Australian farmers can now enjoy the benefits of these imported and genetically modified dung beetles on their properties.