A new species of dung beetle will be released in the Great Southern this week to tackle bush fly numbers.
A spring-active beetle Onthophagus vacca, will be released at sites around Kojonup. O. vacca was imported into Australia from France and Spain by CSIRO, as part of a Meat and Livestock Australia-funded dung beetle project across southern Australia.
Release locations were selected as part of a two year dung beetle survey and monitoring research project undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Food.
Department Irrigated Agriculture and Diversification Executive Director Terry Hill said the survey looked at existing populations of dung beetles across 12 sites in WA, and identified where significant impacts on bush fly numbers could be made by introducing the new species.
“Sites have been chosen where there are numerous large herds of cattle, therefore a large quantity of cow dung,” Mr Hill said.
“Releasing the beetle in these areas will maximise the opportunity for them to establish and hopefully spread.”
CSIRO researcher Jane Wright said the beetles had been carefully selected to fill a seasonal gap in activity in early spring across southern Australia.
“We have established a breeding colony in our laboratory in Canberra. The original beetles were placed in quarantine and the eggs from these were surface-sterilised following Australia Quarantine Inspection Service protocols and then released from quarantine and transferred to artificial brood balls," Dr Wright said
“Over the last two years, we have developed a rearing technique that has allowed us to produce sufficient beetles for field releases.”
Mr Hill said the new spring active beetle would complement existing species in the area which were summer and winter active beetles and also provide additional benefits to WA cattle producers.
“By introducing the spring active beetle, the long term goal is to stop fly numbers from building up over spring, allowing existing beetles to have a greater impact on fly populations over summer.
“The beetles will also improve soil fertility which will aid in better pasture production for livestock and reduce the nutrient runoff from dung into waterways,” he said.
Earlier this year established winter-active dung beetle Copris hispanus was collected from Williams and redistributed in the Geraldton and Badgingarra areas to tackle bush fly numbers.
The timing of the dung beetle release coincides with the start of National Science Week which recognises research work undertaken in many fields across Australia.
Media contact: Jodie Thomson/Katrina Bowers, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937