Beetle hope to swat flies

James Ridsdill- Smith (right), John Matthiessen and David Cousins (rear) sort dung beetles collected during the survey.
James Ridsdill- Smith (right), John Matthiessen and David Cousins (rear) sort dung beetles collected during the survey.

The Department of Agriculture and Food has been conducting monthly field surveys to assess dung beetle populations and identify potential sites for the release of two new species.

DAFWA senior entomologist Rob Emery said the work could be grubby, but it was worthwhile.

‘During the past 18 months, researchers have handled hundreds of pieces of dung as part of their work to assess dung beetle numbers,’ Mr Emery said.

‘Two dozen traps are sampled monthly at 12 sites across the South-West from Badgingarra and Quairading south to Narrikup and Vasse.

‘The surveys have revealed healthy populations of dung beetles as a result of work that began almost three decades ago to establish dung beetle populations in WA.’

Dung beetles deliver a variety of benefits to soils and pastures as well as destroying breeding sites of flies.

Mr Emery said identifying the best sites for the release of the new species of dung beetle was essential.

‘If these sites are able to support a population of the new spring-active dung beetles, the beetles could then be harvested and redistributed to other locations in WA,’ he said.

The survey is scheduled for completion in February 2014.

Mr Emery said even with a successful release, dung beetles could take years to establish and build up in population.

Entomologist and bush fly expert John Matthiessen said it was natural for bush fly numbers in the South West to increase at this time of year.