Dung Beetle Cleans up Cow-pats left by Millions of Cattle

The dung beetle is a little insect that collects and buries the dung (faeces) of other animals. By doing this it helps recycle nutrients, aerate the soil and reduce flies. There are over 400 species of native Australian dung beetles. These native beetles are very efficient at burying the small dry dung pellets produced by native animals such as the kangaroo and wombat.

Why was the Dung Beetle Brought to Australia?

When Europeans settlers started colonising Australia they discovered that the land was well suited for grazing cattle. There was a problem, however. Native dung beetles who had evolved over millions of years were adapted to the dry small dung pellets of the local native animals. They could not cope with the large wet cow-pats produced by cattle. As a result these cow-pats started to accumulate on top of grazing land, fouling the land, decreasing grass production and increasing the number of flies to plague-like proportions.

To solve the problem, in 1967-89 and again in 1990-1992, 47 different species of dung beetle were imported from Europe, Africa and Hawaii. They were released progressively under strict ecological control into the Australian environment. Of these, 23 species adapted happily to their new Australian environment.

Why are the Introduced Dung Beetles a Success Story?

Released under strict quarantine and biological controls the introduced dung beetles have not adversely effected the local ecosystem. In fact they have been happily munching and burying cow-pats produced Australia's 30 million cattle ever since their introduction here.