BEETLEMANIA hit Mitta Mitta on September 28 when a spring-active dung beetle was introduced to Victorian soil for the first time.
The European dung beetle, Onthophagus vacca, was brought to Australia in 2011 from France and reared in CSIRO laboratories in South Australia. In September this year, O. vacca beetles were released at two sites in Australia: Mitta Mitta, Victoria and Manjimup in Western Australia.
Up until then, dung beetle species present in Australia were active in summer, autumn and winter periods, but not spring. The release was supported by the Victorian Government through a Victorian Landcare Grant.
Secretary of the Mitta Valley Landcare Group, Anita Reynolds, said it was a thrill to be one of only two sites chosen in Australia for the release of O.vacca beetles and it was due to Mitta Valley Landcare Group’s diligent work and previous success with breeding the winter-active dung beetles in the valley.
“One of our members, John Patterson, successfully bred winter-active dung beetles (B. bison) on his property five years ago, so it was an ideal site for the release of spring-active dung beetles. Our group really pushed for it to happen and we raised enough funds to do this project,” Mrs Reynolds said.
“In September, Bernard Doube of Dung Beetle Solutions from South Australia delivered 1000 dung beetles that were released into John’s paddock. John had moved cattle into the paddock prior to the release so there was plenty of fresh cow dung for the beetles.”
She said 400 O. vacca beetles were also released into three breeding tents located at John’s property, Anita’s property and the neighbouring property of another Mitta Valley Landcare Group member, Ben Teek.
“We will become custodians of the beetles and will work towards breeding numbers for distribution to other members and neighboring Landcare groups. The tents will stop the beetles from flying away and encourage them to reproduce. John, Ben and I will keep providing them with fresh manure from cows and horses. In spring next year we’ll know how many eggs have hatched.”
She said dung beetles were vital to help improve her pastures. “Both earthworms and dung beetles help improve the soil so much by breaking down the manure and taking those nutrients into the ground. The beetles aerate the soil and help water drainage with their tunnels and create dung balls at the end of the tunnels for their eggs. If we didn’t have dung beetles, about 70 per cent of livestock waste wouldn’t break down and be taken into the soil. Having a spring-active dung beetle bridges the gap we had.
“In summer many cattle breeders have stock affected by Pinkeye (infectious bovine kerato-conjunctivitis, or IBK), which causes temporary or permanent blindness. In addition to IBK treatment being time consuming and expensive, the infection can result in significant economic losses. With the major carriers of the IBK bacteria being flies, the release of O. vacca provides the opportunity to reduce the fly population from September through to December because the beetles bury the dung that the fly larvae grow in.”
North East CMA, through funding from the National Landcare Program, has also supported Landcare groups such as Mitta Valley and Kiewa Catchment to run earthworm and dung beetle workshops and produce dung beetle factsheets and a dung beetle Youtube clip.
North East CMA CEO Neil McCarthy said: “This is a really good example of community led solutions and what can be done when community leaders get support from North East CMA and government.”
For more information or to register your interest for spring-active dung beetles, contact the Mitta Valley Landcare Group on 0419238452 or firstname.lastname@example.org