Dung Beetles were once again a hot topic this month as PHCC’s Rivercare team had the pleasure of joining students and teachers from North Dandalup Primary School and dung beetle expert, John Allen from Coodanup College, in releasing 500 Onthophagus gazella onto farmland. Flying at dusk and dawn, the Onthophagus gazella dung beetle species is two-toned in colour and grows to approximately 10 – 13 mm. They are highly active from spring to autumn and can tunnel down to a depth of 20 – 25 cm. It is hoped this release will go not only towards increasing soil productivity, but also help in reducing large populations of the pest species of bushfly seen throughout the catchment. An additional 500 gazella beetles were also provided to NDPS and placed into the schools constructed breeding boxes. This will allow the continuation of students learning about the important role dung beetles play in innovative agricultural practices through a hands-on approach. If this breeding is successful, these beetles will also be released onto targeted properties surrounding the Serpentine River.
Under guidance from champion teacher Denise Honeybone, the driving force behind the project, each student started their day with writing stories about what they had learnt about dung beetles. They then followed Denise’s secret recipe to bake dung beetle biscuits for afternoon tea, although the beetles didn’t have any body parts and looked and tasted suspiciously like chocolate chips! The students then prepared the breeding boxes for the arrival of the additional 500 beetles and had the opportunity to ask questions of dung beetle expert, John Allen. After these preliminaries it was finally time to release the beetles. With military precision, the students lined up to receive 3 – 5 beetles to release into the neighbouring paddock. The release was a great success with many of the beetles finding some freshly laid cowpats and the excitement and enthusiasm of the students flooding the atmosphere.
The released beetles will be closely monitored by the students with beetle sightings and activity being recorded into the future. It is aimed for this data to be submitted into the nation-wide dung beetle program to contribute to identifying the range and capacity of the O. gazella species and how it plays a pivotal role in agriculture.
This project is supported by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council through funding from the Alcoa Foundation’s Three Rivers, One Estuary Initiative.