Question of the Week
Answer: Thank you for contacting ATTRA for information about sources of dung beetles.
Current thinking on dung beetles holds that if your management is appropriate, and if there are any dung beetles around, they will find you. They can fly great distances and have an excellent ability to smell fresh manure from far away. They frequent fresh manure, often arriving within minutes of deposition. Dung beetles typically do not visit older, dried, or composted manure.
I want to be sure that you've read the ATTRA publication Dung Beetle Benefits in the Pasture Ecosystem. It includes information on how to find and identify beetles that are already working in your pasture. I especially recommend that you read the "Management" chapter. Also, look at the North Carolina Extension publication listed in the ATTRA publication; it is the final item under "Other Sources of Information." This publication includes colored pictures of various dung beetle species as well as information about which insecticides are detrimental to dung beetle survival. Note that most dung beetles are very small.
Remember that dung beetle activity begins in the spring when temperatures become warm. They usually emerge after a warm spring rain, so that's when you should start to watch for them. Some are very small, requiring that you look closely to actually spot them. Some operate during the night; some work in the daytime.
There is no longer a source in the US to buy dung beetles of any type. At a recent dung beetle field day in Missouri, a representative of Rincon-Vitova, a source of beneficial insects in California, suggested setting up a blog so that people can collect beetles from their place and send them to yours--or vice versa. It would be like a seed or plant exchange. It would not be subject to the types of regulations that his company faces, but would still be totally legal. Apparently, a man in Australia set up a similar system to help people get dung beetles adapted to their places. Everyone would have to learn how to collect and ship beetles. If this should happen, we will post information on the ATTRA website: www.attra.org.
I have just received word from Ralph Voss, the convener of the first and second dung beetle field days in Missouri. There will be another dung beetle gathering this year, but this time in Louisiana. I've included the information about this field day and the end of this letter.
There is a new book, Dung Beetles and A Cowman's Profits by Charles Walters. It contains more information about dung beetles and the aborted attempt By Dr. Fincher to identify and introduce additional adapted species into the US. The book contains descriptions of various species as well. Mr. Walters also mentions that the main thing you can do is to be sure that your management is friendly to the beetles--especially your parasite management.
If you need more help in locating or identifying the dung beetle species on your farm, check with the Extension entomologist specialist at your land grant university.
Dung Beetle Field Day Information
What should prove to be the mother of all dung beetle field days will be held on July 16 in Amite, La., located 65 miles north of New Orleans on I-55. The event is being sponsored by the South Poll Grass Cattle Association and will be hosted by SPGCA board member J.A. Girgenti at his farm near Amite.
The field day has several purposes. One is to pay tribute to Dr. Truman Fincher, the entomologist who did so much to import numerous species of dung beetles into this country from all over the world and who then worked to get them colonized over much of the country.
In making your decision as to whether you plan to come, keep these things in mind:
+ Truman has agreed to attend. While I’ve never met Truman in person, we have talked on the phone many times and I’ve always enjoyed hearing his stories about dung beetles. I’m sure you’ll enjoy Truman’s remarks.
+ Dr. Pat Richardson and her husband Dr. Dick Richardson will be there. If you’ve already heard Pat talk about dung beetles, you know what a treat you’re in for.
+ What you will see in Amite is Onthophagus gazellas by the gazillions. The numbers of gazellas on J.A.’s farm is a tribute to his farming practices.
Unlike many field days this one is going to be free. There is one requirement and that is you must register in advance. To register you must send a check or money order for $50, made payable to STALS (that’s an acronym for St. Tammany Agricultural and Life Sciences, which is an FFA group from that area). If you show up for the field day, your check will be returned to you. If you fail to appear, the check will be given to the members of STALS.
Please send your reservations to me at P.O. Box 109, Linn, MO 65051.
You pay nothing to attend this field day and other than the field day activities nothing will be provided. STALS will have bottled water and soft drinks for sale at the farm. We tentatively plan to begin our tour of the farm at 8 a.m. and hope to leave there by 10. By then I assure you it will be quite warm. We have made arrangements to use a church hall to get together after we leave the farm. At the church hall – which is air conditioned – we will hear remarks by our two celebrity dung beetle enthusiasts. After that you will be on your own for lunch.
Amite has two hotels – a Holiday Inn Express (phone – 985.747.0400) and Comfort Inn (phone – 985.748.5550). If you fail to get a reservation at one of these places, Hammond is a short drive to the south.
If you have questions, give me a call at 573-694-1682.
As I mentioned above, Amite is only 65 miles from New Orleans. We love New Orleans and plan to go there before the field day. I would suggest you consider going there. It’s a wonderful city with much to offer. The food is great, the art museum is excellent and the World War II museum is out of this world.
If you are interested, please let me hear from you as soon as possible.
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