Getting it dung; Australian scientists breed better beetles
Picky Australian dung beetles could lose some ground to European imports. Some Australian scientists are working to breed French dung beetles for our soil; the continental coprophytes do not share their Australian counterparts’ distaste for cow droppings.
The French bugs will need a summer home here in Australia, so scientists have started working on the back-end of the plan; making their own artificial dung balls. Doctor Jane Wright, from the Ecosystems Sciences division of CSIRO, says researchers have already made 7,000 dung balls for the breeding program, "that requires that we take nice, quality dung from the spring, squeeze the extra juice out of it to get it down to the right moisture content and try and make it into a ball... then we make a hole, put the egg in, close it up and eventually we get adults at the other end."
The dung beetles are due to be released onto Australian soils in spring next year.
Dr Wright says her team have collected about five tonnes of dung for the beetle breeding program already this year.
"We had about two and a half tonnes last year, but because our numbers are building up, we need more and more dung."