Paul Weston, Charles Sturt University/Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation
In mid-January more than 50 participants attended a Kiewa Landcare Group workshop at Kergunyah, Victoria to hear from speakers on dung beetle ecology and management.
A team from Charles Sturt including Dr Leslie Weston, Dr Xiaocheng Zhu, Russ Barrow and Dr Paul Weston addressed the workshop. Attendees practiced their identification skills on commonly occurring dung beetle species in the eastern Victoria area.
Identification requires observation of such fine details as the colour and shape of the leg or dorsal hairs, the size of their horns or spurs on their legs, which can be challenging if soil or dung is not removed beforehand. The main indicator that dung beetles are active in an area is the level of dung dispersal and burial. This may be due to one or many different species of dung beetle.
Different dung beetles are active at different times of the year and prefer some soil types over others. Dung beetles can be caught in traps or, if they are especially active, can be found by turning over dung pats that are about 24 hours old. When conditions are conducive, hundreds of dung beetles can be found under a single pad. Cattle can produce 12 pads per day each which means that there is plenty of work for these little engineers.
Kiewa Landcare Group is providing monitoring data in an existing network of trapping across this region for use in the project database and virtual mapping milestone. This database will determine how to best fill the gaps in dung beetle activity across Australia.