Beetles with benefits: how dung beetles enrich our farms

Since 1964, the introduction of 23 dung beetle species to Australia has been a remarkable success in biological control. We aim to estimate the positive impact of dung beetles on profitability and productivity for primary producers, uncovering their valuable benefits.

The challenge

Previous research survey work identified there are seasonal and geographical gaps in the distribution of dung beetles across southern Australia.

Dung beetles play an incredible role by burying livestock dung, leading to improved soil, reduced runoff, fewer parasites, lower carbon emissions, and fewer pesky flies. They even help control livestock parasites! The DBEE project will delve deeper into the benefits of dung beetles and their influence on livestock health, promoting sustainable and friendly agricultural practices.

Project name Dung beetle ecosystem engineers - enduring benefits for livestock producers via science and a new community partnership model (2018 -2023)

Funding Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment $13.035M

Project website

Our response

Nation-wide monitoring surveys and ecosystem research activities were undertaken to find out more about existing communities of dung beetles, the climates and soil types they prefer and identify gaps that can be filled by new species.

Our researchers established over 100 intensive monitoring sites and trained project partners in surveillance protocols.

The Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineers (DBEE) project is expanding the range of dung beetles in Australia and analysing their performance for livestock producers. The project is expected to have significant benefits to both livestock producers and the environment.

The goal

This project has a clear goal: to make a positive impact on soil quality, pests, diseases, and pasture health with the help of new dung beetle species.

The key milestones included, creating a dung beetle service network, providing valuable information and training, and quantifying the benefits to inspire changes in farming practices.

Our team

Our project leads

Our research team

portrait of Associate Professor Russ Barrow
Associate Professor Russ Barrow
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portrait of Professor Geoff Gurr
Professor Geoff Gurr
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portrait of Professor Leslie Weston
Professor Leslie Weston
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Key research publications

  • Ma, L., Weeraratne, K. N., Gurusinghe, S., Aktar, J., Haque, K. M. S., Eberbach, P., Gurr, G. G., & Weston, L. A. (2023). Dung beetle activity Is soil-type-dependent and modulates pasture growth and associated soil microbiome. Agronomy, 13(2), [325].
  • Noriega, J. A., Halliday, B., Weston, P., Thotagamuwa, A., & Gurr, G. (2022). Beyond phoresy: symbioses between dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) and mites (Acari). Entomologia Generalis, 42(4), 499-513.
  • Perera, N. N., Weston, P. A., Barrow, R. A., Weston, L. A., & Gurr, G. M. (2022). Contrasting volatilomes of livestock dung drive preference of the dung beetle bubas bison (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Molecules, 27(13), 4152.
  • Ma, L., Haque, K. M. S., Weston, P. A., Gurr, G. M., Eberbach, P., & Weston, L. A. (2021). Evaluating the effects of tunnelling dung beetle species on multiple soil functions. 125. Abstract from Soils, Investing in our future 2021 Joint Conference.

Our partners

Connect and collaborate

We are looking for researchers, students, funding and partners to help take our research to the next level.