Most of us would struggle to tell one pile from another but dung beetles clearly distinguish the first rate from merely number two.
Now researchers at the University of New England (UNE) are working to give them exactly what they want — and improve our environment in the process.
Farmers have revered dung beetles since ancient Egyptian times and they’re popular in rural Australia to this day, thanks to their role boosting soil fertility.
The canny composters help preserve nutrients by consuming and burying dung from livestock to create nests for their eggs.
As well as enriching the soil, dung beetles reduce flies and livestock worms, and may also have a role in reducing greenhouse gasses.
UNE researcher Amrit Pal Kaur is looking at what tantalises their tastebuds (antennae) and keeps them active so that land managers can encourage them year-round.
“In the winter, when their preferred food is more scarce, dung beetles generally become dormant,” Kaur says.
“I’m trying to replicate the high-quality summer dung they like, which is nutritious and rich in nitrogen, and of the right consistency and moisture content for tunnelling and making broods.
“If we can do that, then we might be able to help farmers to multiply their beetle numbers and guarantee their presence.”
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