This year, evidence of dung beetle activity is everywhere and – given my recent musings about poop recently – I couldn’t be happier. Alas, I have no pics of my own to show you because dung beetles are nocturnal and I am quite the opposite. But I can offer you this. The work of the tunneling type looks not unlike the poop is turning into a pile of worm castings. Here you can see a pile of goat or sheep poop that has been partially recycled. And another: While here the beetles – fortunately nondiscriminatory – have begun work on a cow pie: And last, here you can see a pile of poop that has been almost entirely “reclaimed”:
What we’ve learned about dung beetles is that this tunneling type lays its eggs under these piles of dirt, and the larva feast on the broken down manure until they are mature enough to fly off in search of a pile of manure of their own. We are glad that we followed our instincts and left the piles of dirt undisturbed! However even more exciting than the recycling of the manure itself, is the role that dung beetles play in parasite control. The life cycle of the internal parasite begins when it excretes its eggs in the manure. Once hatched, the larva crawls up a blade of grass where it waits to be consumed by the next grazer to come along, infecting or reinfecting the animals in the pasture. However by drying out the manure and turning it into piles of dirt, the dung beetles interrupt parasite life cycles. This is very good news for us, as we hope to reduce – and ultimately eliminate – our need to use chemical dewormers on our animals.
There a virtuous circle at work here in that the less we use chemical dewormers and insecticides, the more the dung beetles can help us. It’s little surprise that oral dewormers result in poop toxic to dung beetles, but perhaps more surprising is that the sprays and powders we apply to our animals externally also harm dung beetle populations. I love the idea that by not deworming, we can encourage dung beetles who will further decrease our need for deworming.
Needless to say we’re not complaining that the dung beetles have chosen to help us with our poop situation.