Dung Beetle Nursery Network

This 12 month project (2021-22) is establishing dung beetle nurseries across the region in order to speed up the distribution of new dung beetle species and address seasonal gaps in the distribution of established species.

Volunteer sites (made up of Landcare and farming properties) are hosting maternity wards and mass rearing beetles to release and share with other landholders in their districts, as well as to set up the future breeding colonies.

Monitoring and local observations from paddocks. Wil be undertaken as a Landcare citizen science project using the MyDungBeetle Reporter app.

This project was originally led by the Port Phillip & Westernport CMA. The Port Phillip & Westernport CMA is integrating into Melbourne Water on 1 January 2022 and from this date Melbourne Water will be the delivery agency. 

Why this project is important 

The CSIRO introduced dung beetles between 1968-1992 to Australia to specifically feed on livestock dung. 23 introduced species have been established and spread across Australia where they feed on dung and use it as a food source for their offspring. 

Dung beetles provide many benefits on farms from improving soils and pasture health to reducing the spread of flies and diseases. Pasture productivity improves as a result of dung beetles burying dung, which becomes a source of nutrients for soil organisms and generates pasture growth.

Not much is known about the full extent and abundance of dung beetles nor what impact some management practices can have on dung beetle populations on farms. Project like this help us to understand more about dung beetles while the region’s farmland benefits from their ecosystem services.

Project partners 

  • Melbourne Water
  • Cannibal Creek Landcare Group
  • Bunyip Landcare Group
  • Nillumbik Landcare Network
  • Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network
  • Macedon Ranges Shire

Timelines

2022The project will begin harvesting beetles, setting up new nursery sites and releasing some of the beetles on farms.
A monitoring program for established dung beetle species will be begin. Workshops will be held in February and March. Topics will include an introduction to dung beetles, drenching best practice and monitoring for dung beetles.
A video on the benefits of dung beetles and encouraging this sustainable practice on farms will be released.
September 202113 nursery sites were set up across farming areas in Macedon Ranges, Nillumbik, Western Port and Mornington Peninsula.
Landholders began carefully raising beetles in custom made nurseries including Bubas bison (a winter active species), Onthophagus vacca and Bubas bubalus (spring species).
March 2021PPWCMA and Macedon Ranges Shire held a workshop with 40 landholders on the benefits of dung beetles, identification and, redistribution to build populations and shorten seasonal gaps.

Funding acknowledgement 

This project is being delivered by the PPWCMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Melbourne Water, Landcare Australia and the Victorian Government.