Dung Beetle Nursery Network

This 12 month project (2021-22) is establishing dung beetle nurseries at 14 sites 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.

Dung beetles are important as they improve soils and pasture health, reduce the spread of flies and diseases and reduce nutrient runoff from entering waterways. Ideally these benefits should be present across all seasons and the best way to achieve this is to mass rear and release beetles across the region to fast-track seasonal establishment.

The PPWCMA’s Regional Agriculture Facilitator, Karen Thomas is working with the volunteer sites (made up of Landcare and farming properties) to set up the maternity wards using special nursery kits and report progress on regional success with these new species. Monitoring will involve traps being set up at each site, with beetles being monitored via catch and release and data being shared using the MyDungBeetle Reporter app.

This project is being delivered by the PPWCMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and Melbourne Water, Landcare Australia, Victorian Government (via the PPWCMA’s Landcare Coordinator), with the support of Cannibal Creek Landcare Group, Bunyip Landcare Group, Nillumbik Landcare Network and Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network.

Project activities

As part of the project, the PPWCMA and Macedon Ranges Shire held a workshop in March 2021 for over 40 landholders. They learnt about identification, beetle benefits and how to redistribute species across local farms to build populations and shorten seasonal gaps if local suitable species are absent. Participants were also introduced to the MyDungBeetle Reporter app.

As of September 2021, the 14 nursery sites have been set up across farming areas in Macedon Ranges, Nillumbik, Western Port and Mornington Peninsula. Landholders are carefully raising beetles in custom made nurseries including Bubas bison (a winter active species); Onthophagus vacca (a spring species) and Bubas bubalus (also a spring species)

Landholders are busily feeding the beetles with dung and all going well, we hope to harvest the next generation of beetles to create new nurseries and release others into paddocks to spread across districts. We want these benefits present across all seasons and the best way to achieve this is to mass rear and release beetles across our region to fast-track seasonal establishment.

We hope to run additional workshops in the future. To be notified about these sign up to the PPWCMA enews.

About dung beetles

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

We now know that dung beetles provide many benefits from improved soil permeability, reduced spread of flies and parasites and improved pasture fertility when dung is buried. Pasture productivity improves and waterways are protected from nutrient loaded surface runoff.

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. Regular cultivation, drenches and even chickens as tractors can impact dung beetle populations.