Australia, home to nearly 23 million people, is also home to 28 million head of cattle. Besides producing milk and meat, cattle also produce a lot of manure, which was a big problem in Australia until the 1960s because their native dung beetles preferred manure from kangaroos, koalas, and other native species.
That changed when Dr. George Bornemissza and his colleagues at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) introduced foreign dung beetles to the continent. Between 1969-1987, 43 different species of exotic dung beetle were released in Australia, 23 of which have become established.
Now, for the first time in more than 20 years, they’re releasing two new dung beetle species. The first, Onthophagus vacca, will be released this week, and another one called Bubas bubalus will be released next year. It is hoped that the new species will be active in the early spring season and will provide services that the already established species do not, since they are most active in the summer.
Dung beetles are beneficial around the world because they bury manure, which helps aerate and fertilize the soil. However, in Australia they bring an added benefit by reducing populations of the bush fly (Musca vetustissima), a pesky nuisance insect. More dung beetles should equal fewer bush flies, because the beetles remove manure that is favored by the flies as a place to lay their eggs.
“They will be active and compete for the dung and therefore the influx of flies will not be able to breed so well, and what that means is we should be able to knock the top off that big surge of flies in the spring which you experience here,” said CSIRO researcher Dr. Jane Wright.
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