Contamination of pastures by dung reduces the amount of forage available for grazing, and has other economic, environmental, ecological and social effects, such as pollution of waterways. Our 15 species of native dung beetles are primarily forest dwellers and are not able to utilise dung in open pasture. Most of New Zealand is too cold for the introduced species Copris incertus, and species that have self-introduced to date are unable to deal with the quantity of dung produced each day.
By introducing additional species of dung beetles that are able to deal with pastoral dung effectively we will have the opportunity to help mitigate problems associated with it and achieve more sustainable production in the future.
A number of countries that farm livestock on a large scale (particularly Australia, USA including Hawaii, and Brazil) have benefited from importing pastoral dung burying beetles when their own native species are not adapted to utilise the dung of exotic animals and/or modified open pasture. Australia has a national dung beetle project that started in 1965, and has so far introduced over 50 species.
Dung beetle distribution map of species released so far, enlarge video for better viewing
The Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group was established in New Zealand by a group of farmers and other interested parties in 2008 with the objective of importing and releasing dung beetles to assist with the removal of pastoral dung of agricultural livestock.
An application by the Dung Beetle Release Strategy Group to release 11 species of dung beetles in New Zealand was approved by the Environmental Risk Management Authority in February 2011, and a project to import and breed up these beneficial insects is now underway funded largely by the MPI’s Sustainable Farming Fund (grant number 09-079). Landcare Research is providing science and technical support to this programme.
These web pages introduce the beetles, outline the project to date, and describe the research that has been done overseas and more recently in New Zealand. This research provides information about the specific benefits and potential risks of introducing the beetles and adding them to the dung beetles and other insects that already occur in New Zealand and are active in our pastoral landscapes.