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Dung Beetle king finds WA caravan park deserves pat (on the back) as research base

July 20, 2012
Dung Beetle king finds WA caravan park deserves  pat (on the back) as research base

Dung Beetle king, Dr Bernard Doube prefers to stay at Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park in Western Australia as he collects specimens of the soil enhancing bulldozer of a beetle to export back to South Africa. Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park also assisted Dr Doube's with a trailer and four local youths on semester break from their studies as a work team.

Jack, Tom, Steven and Kyle (pictured) are now proficient Dung Beetles wranglers. Their benchmark performances so far include more than 600 Dung Beetles from the surrounds of one cow pat and 12,000 Dung Beetles corralled in one day.

"If conditions are right and the boys manage to collect to the same specifications the total number collected for this session will be around 80,000," Dr Doube said. "Of course, the record of 235,000 beetles from one collection session is held in South Africa. There is a special way of collecting through trapping in a cell grazing system, but that isnt the method we are using in WA. All in all the boys have done a great job.

Its dirty work, literally, Kyle Bermingham of Lakelands said. But, in the name of science we are doing it.

The boys are occupied for up to 10 hours a day sifting through the dung to collect the Dung Beetles. The Dung Beetles are stored on ice and then posted back to South Africa to start to transform the soil profile and nutrient base which results in deeper rooting by plants and an effective and profitable grazing system.

Donna Cocking of Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park says the female Dung Beetle has a much bigger digging claw than does the male, which reflects the fact that she does most of the work (digging).

The female on the right of the Dung Beetle picture is a newly emerged (June) adult beetle with its digging claws in fine fettle, the female on the left was collected in December after burying many dung pads, during which its digging claw was work away to a stump.

Dr Doube says he prefers to stay at caravan parks because he can spread out his tarps, store his iced boxes with close to 30,000 beetles at a time and still have the comforts of one of the newly refurbished ensuited chalets at the Mandurah Caravan and Tourist Park.

This is the perfect place to base my studies because of the friendly and helpful nature of Reg and the staff, Dr Doube said.

Dr Doube, says the way dung beetles recycle cattle dung in the soil could improve carbon dynamics.

The Dung Beetles dig tunnels and bury the animal dung not only improving soil quality but locking carbon away in the soil.

The carbon levels in Australian soils at half a metre are extremely low, so this is a very valuable contribution to improving the carbon dynamics of the soils in Australia, he said

Editors Note: Dr Bernard Doube was a Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO for 29 years and has had extensive research experience with Dung Beetles in South Africa and Australia.

Female Bubas Bison beatles
Female Bubas Bison beatles

He is now Principal of Dung Beetle Solutions Australia, which collaborates with water authorities, federal agencies (eg MLA), universities and other organisations to research the influence of Dung Beetles on water quality, grazing systems and carbon sequestration in Southern Australia.

Dr Doube specialises in:

  • research on Dung Beetles in Southern Australia.
  • consulting landholders about dung beetles for their property.
  • distributing Dung Beetles (Bubas Bison and Geotrupes Spiniger) throughout winter rainfall regions of Australia.

Scientist Bernard Doube
Scientist Bernard Doube