Some dung beetle information

Phanaeus vindex, last week in Scott County, MO.

I was recently asked to provide some information to another blog (The Ozarkian – http://theozarkian.wordpress.com) about dung beetles and cattle wormers. If you are involved with cattle in a pasture system dung beetles can make a big difference in your productivity (http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/PDF/dungbeetle.pdf). Unfortunately, cattle wormers can create big problems for dung beetles (http://natureweb.org.au/images/8/8b/Drenching.pdf ).

 MY FIRST ADVICE IS TO CONSULT YOUR VET. ULTIMATELY YOUR PRODUCTION IS TIED TO CATTLE HEALTH.

 Next you should start looking at the kinds and numbers of dung beetles in your pastures. This can be easily done with a couple traps (http://theozarkian.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/yes-virginia-i-can-teach-you-to-make-a-dung-beetle-trap ) – the more difficult part will be identifying the beetles you capture. Here is a North Carolina guide: http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/forage/guidetoncdungbeetles.pdf. Dr. Wayne Bailey (http://plantsci.missouri.edu/faculty/bailey.htm) is heading up a team working on a Missouri guide (it is a couple years out) and has put on a dung beetle workshop the past couple years (http://extension.missouri.edu/news/DisplayStory.aspx?N=901). You will also need also need to keep some records so you know when peak beetle numbers are in your pastures as this will influence when you apply wormers.

 The livestock wormer moxidectin is considered a “dung beetle friendly” alternative to ivermectin based wormers (http://beefmagazine.com/mag/beef_beetle_mania/), but which product(s) you use is a decision you will make with your vet. I do not do research on cattle health products or the effects of these products on local dung beetle populations, this information is only provided as a courtesy to the Ozarkian.

 Your pasture may already be a dung beetle paradise, and you only need to sample populations to confirm it. If you do wish to try to enhance dung beetle populations consider beginning with the basics: 1) talk to your vet,  2) sample so you know what is going on, 3) try to treat when dung beetle populations are low (cold months), and 4) try to use products that aren’t as toxic to dung beetles. As many dung beetle species spend significant time in soil, any management that conserves soils should also help dung beetle populations.

– Kent



Categories: Insects

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