On 28 May, Charles Sturt University received its first delivery of the Moroccan strain of the dung beetle Onthophagus vacca from CSIRO. The experienced CSIRO team has poured significant time and effort into introducing the species into the country through Australia’s strict regulations, before rearing subsequent generations. The project’s quarantine permit requires all eggs to be surface sterilised for biosecurity reasons, which is a considerably stressful process for the developing insects. The new generation of beetles that arises from these sterilised eggs requires delicate handling to ensure adequate growth and survival.
The team at the Charles Sturt mass rearing facility in Wagga Wagga will be increasing the numbers of O. vacca over the next four years, with the aim of having multiple releases to field sites across southern Australia. The Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers project is very optimistic and excited about O. vacca as it’s a spring-active beetle that’s attracted to sheep and cattle dung. Currently in Australia there are no predominantly spring-active species. Many farmers are showing great enthusiasm and volunteering their properties as possible release locations. The DBEE team, which includes Bernard Doube, will use its many years of cumulative experience to identify ideal locations to optimise establishment and survival of the mass-reared beetles over the coming years.