Black beetles painted with purple and gold marks.

CSIRO scientists recently released the Moroccan dung beetle into southern Australia. These beetles are being studied in a lab and are given colourful markings that differentiate females from males.

Credit: CSIRO

There are more than 28 million cattle in Australia that produce over 280 million cow poos a day. That’s a lot of poo to clean up! So CSIRO scientists asked nature’s best poo recyclers for help.

Australia has hundreds of species of dung beetles that can break down dung from native animals. But it’s different when it comes to introduced livestock such as cattle and sheep. When cattle dung is left in the paddock for too long, it can smother pasture and the soils underneath. It also encourages thousands of bush flies to feast and breed, creating buzzing nuisances for cattle and people.

To tackle these issues, CSIRO scientists searched around the world for dung beetle species that can quickly break down cattle dung. Since 1967, CSIRO scientists have brought in 55 species of dung beetles and released 44. Now, 23 species have successfully settled in.

These introduced beetles have been tunnelling and rolling through countless cow poos since then, burying dung underground and returning nutrients to the soil. They also help reduce fly populations.

More recently, CSIRO researchers have released 3 new beetle species to help with dung recycling in southern Australia. The researchers are closely monitoring these beetles to see how they settle in, and observe their impact as new dung-gineers for soil health.

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4 responses

  1. Jenny Edge Avatar
    Jenny Edge

    Impoorted dung beetles are so important for Australia. When I studied environmental science +/- 20 yrs ago @ Gordon TAFE, Geelong, an elective unit that was self directed I chose IMPOORTED DUNG BEETLES following an episode of LANDLINE on ABC. TV. Unfortunately I didn’t complete the course. Read somewhere that funding from Federal Government was an ongoing problem. So glad to see that CSIRO is moving on with this research. I rang a Canberra
    ‘phone number I discovered I had contacted a professor who suggested if I knew someone working/living in Canberra he could supply me with some Beatles,(used example of a Sydney council who used I Dung beetles to clean up dog excrement) Thank you for all your work.

    1. Ariel Marcy Avatar
      Ariel Marcy

      Thank you for sharing your experience with dung beetles in Australia! They are incredibly important and you can be sure we’ll cover developments of CSIRO’s research with them. You can see David’s comment in this thread about potentially sourcing imported dung beetles if that’s still of interest. All the best, Ariel

  2. Glenn Gainford Avatar
    Glenn Gainford

    Would love a supply of dung beetles for my cattle property in Maleny QLD.
    Any suggestions?

    1. David Shaw Avatar
      David Shaw

      Hi Glenn,
      I think you’ll need to reach out to an expert. Meat & Livestock Australia were running a scheme:
      It looks like that scheme has wrapped up, but the website has links to dung beetle breeders, and a map showing which species live in which regions of Australia.

      Cheers, D

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