Saturday, 7 March 2015

Don't poo-poo it - Dung beetles are vital!

OK, OK, I've heard that fact too - I'm full of "bullshit"
Did you know that a cow out grazing grass in a field, just as it should be doing, produces roughly its own weight in dung in only 17 days! (A sheep takes about 25 days to do the same thing!). If nothing was around to breakdown these cow pats, then just 12 cows would completely cover a hectare (2 ½ acres) of field with pats in a year, leaving no green grass showing! To put it bluntly, we would be up to our necks in muck in no time at all!

However, luckily for us – step up the Dung beetle!

The UK has more than 40 native species of Dung beetle which tunnel, feed and breed within dung and in doing so help to bury it below the ground, playing an essential role in its breakdown and decomposition.

Dr. Sarah Beynon, a senior research associate of the University of Oxford is studying these beetles, to investigate how closely related each species is and if the roles they perform differ between them. “The results will help us understand more about the genetic diversity of our dung beetles and, ultimately, allow us to design and deliver dung beetle packages for farm use, suited to particular locations and livestock management regimes" she says.

Why the sudden interest? Well, Sarah goes on to warn that Dung beetle populations “appear to have decreased dramatically” and she feels that some wormers and parasiticides, which are often administered to cattle, can be toxic to them.

Most stock farmers follow the policy of “as much as needed, as little as possible”, which is great, but Sarah reminds farmers to ask their Vet about the impact that different treatments have on Dung beetles, as products vary widely.

Of course this advice makes huge sense as a good population of Dung beetles will help to increase soil fertility, improve soil aeration, reduce compaction and in the long run add to grassland production. These beetles are also an important part of the food chain with Bats, Starling and in some places, the Chough relying on them as a plentiful food source. 

Sarah would also love it if we all got involved with her project. “We are looking for volunteers to collect a small number of beetles from the dung of cattle, sheep, horse, goat and alpaca etc and send them to us".

Details about how to take part are available at:

There is also more information on Dung beetles on the website:   

No comments:

Post a Comment