Who knew that the humble dung beetle was important to our waste disposal?
The extended drought and hot spring conditions of the past year have affected dung beetle activity in the Kyogle area and the difference is not invisible.
Supported by the national Dung Beetle Ecosystems Engineers program, The Border Ranges – Richmond Valley Landcare Network (BRRVLN) has been monitoring dung beetle activity on properties in the Upper Richmond River catchment since April 2019.
Previous surveys in Upper Richmond River catchment have shown that introduced dung beetles are most productive in the months January to March. Activity outside of these months is dependent on soil temperature and moisture.
Twenty-seven species on the north coast
A long-term annual survey involving Wollongbar TAFE students has identified 27 introduced and native species active on the NSW north coast. At least ten summer active species can be found in the Kyogle area.
To date no winter or early spring active species have been successfully established, unlike parts of southern Australia where large, winter active species are becoming more commonplace on pastures.
Gavin Tinning from Border Ranges Richmond Valley Landcare Network (BRRVLN) said dung beetles serve several essential ecological functions. ‘Digging aerates the soil and transfers nutrients back into the ground by releasing the nutrients in the dung. Breaking down manure also controls buffalo and bush flies from breeding’.
Gavin said most active species encountered this year have been smaller species. ‘This may show that they are more resilient to extremes in climatic conditions.’
A dung beetle nursery
BRRVLN has established a dung beetle nursery to assess the viability of a spring-active species, recently introduced in Australia to fill a gap in dung beetle activity. However, unusually hot, dry conditions in 2019 may have influenced the experiment. BRRVLN hopes to repeat this on-farm research this Spring.
This project is supported by North Coast Local Land Services through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program aimed at improving soil health.
Want to know more about your local dung beetles? If you are interested in finding out what species of dung beetle you have on your farm, you can download the MyDungBeetleReporter app, or go to https://www.dungbeetles.com.au/dung-beetles/what-species-are-near-you.