Diary of a Onthophagus vacca farmer

Well we have become farmers of a different type of livestock – Dung Beetles 🙂 The beetles arrived on the 9th of October 2020 to be released into their nursery as reported in the last BLOG post. They started off slow and we were quite concerned they may not make it.

They are now turning the piles of cattle dung, that we feed them about twice a week, into a shell really quickly. It is awesome to see the work they do to bury the dung within the nursery. They cannot escape and so they are totally reliant on us to provide for them.

Before arrival we had to collect about 50 litres of dung to put in a garbage bin and leave to settle for a week. This ensured any beetle species already in this dung were gone so we didn’t introduce other beetles into the O.vacca nursery. As this bin empties we collect more dung to be ready to swap over when required. It is a pretty simple process and it’s pretty easy to feed the dung out to the beetles.

These livestock don’t need paddock moves, don’t need water checked, don’t need shearing, don’t need weaning. All in all it’s a great process and in the long run they will improve our soils as well.

At this stage all seems to be going well and we really hope the beetles survive, thrive and especially breed. The on-farm nursery protocol is as per below:-

  • Check dung burial twice weekly.
  • At the same time, add 2 litres of dung immediately adjacent to the previous pile.
  • The parental beetles will feed and breed for 2–4 months (August – October/November).
  • They will then die.
  • The next generation of adult beetles (F1 beetles) will begin emerging in October – November or much later in cooler climates (January – February).
  • The newly emerged adults will feed for 2–3 weeks but will not breed.
  • When they have finished feeding, they will tunnel underground and stay there until spring.
  • Stop feeding the beetles in summer when the dung is no longer being buried.
  • In spring the overwintering beetles will emerge, feed and begin to breed.

They are a really interesting species to learn about and it is exciting for Mid Lachlan Landcare to be involved in establishing a new species of dung beetle in our region. Fingers crossed they make it though our summer.

Some pictures below of the dung pile after the beetles have finished with it. If you have any questions or would like to find out more about the dung beetle work we are doing please contact us midlachlanlandcare@gmail.com.

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