Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get dung beetles?

Dung Beetle Innovations has limited numbers of beetles available this summer!

It is important to place your order as beetles are being made available based on a priority list based on the time of ordering.

For the small block owners we recommend that if possible organising neighbouring land owners and collectively buying a package. Beetles do not respect property boundaries and having more beetles initially will increase the chances and speed of establishment.

Go to our Orders Page to submit your order. Dr Shaun Forgie will call you back to discuss your needs, any questions you have and establishment requirements.

Our Terms and Conditions of Sale.

Is there an information pack?

Yes, please click here for a 7 page info pack.

How long does it take for dung beetles to become established?

Please see establishment information on our management page.

When properly established, beetles breed rapidly and environmental and economic benefits will start to be noticed after 4 – 6 years. You can expect to see beetle activity in 3 to 4 years and full carrying capacity is reached in 9 – 10 years.

Reducing the initial number of beetles released, i.e. splitting packages, decreases the chances of establishment and increases the time to reach carry capacity.

Has anyone done a human health risk assessment?

Yes, the Ministry of Health commissioned the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to undertake a human health risk assessment.

Among the conclusions from the 101-page report:

“Essentially our findings agree with the public health adage that it is better to bury feces than leave them on the surface.”

“We consider that, in areas where dung beetles become abundant, their activity will decrease the transport of pathogens from ruminant dung on pasture, to people. There may be a relative increase in the risk of transmission from contaminated groundwater sources in these areas, if the groundwater sources are already vulnerable to contamination and drinking water supplies are not treated.”

“Over time as soil depth increases with dung beetle activity, this increase may reverse. The potential increase of transport to groundwater is likely to have a lesser effect than the potential benefit of decreased transport to surface waters.”

The authors concluded: “We did not see any need to undertake further research before the release of the dung beetles.”

Is this not another example of NZ introducing an organism that turns into a disaster?

No. New Zealand’s economy is founded on introduced organisms (cows, sheep, grasses, clover, pine trees, etc.). In this case, dung beetles did not come to NZ at the same time as the farm animals to bury their dung as they do in other countries. Australia has successfully introduced over 25 dung beetle species and continues to introduce more. There they are considered a public health benefit due to reduced flies and less water contamination. NZ has had disasters and due care must be taken. However, you cannot possibly compare the introduction of possums and rabbits by the early settlers to the introduction of beneficial organisms today, which is based on sound ecological science and controlled by stringent regulations. NZ has had numerous successful introductions of beneficial organisms in the last 50 years, including biocontrol agents (predominantly insects) for weeds. An example is the ragwort flea beetle, which since its introduction in the 1980s, has successfully controlled ragwort (previously a major pasture pest nationwide for more than century) throughout most of the country. The thousands of plant species already introduced to NZ that have become weeds and the continuous stream of accidental introductions of new pests pose a much greater threat to the NZ environment and economy than carefully introduced beneficial organisms.


What is the role of dung beetles versus flies in vectoring disease?

There are numerous species of fly that feed and breed in dung in NZ. These may not be troublesome in terms of their impacts on livestock, but some are extremely abundant and are very capable of spreading diseases to humans. In contrast, dung beetles are not attracted to humans or their food. The most common fly of potential medical importance that breeds in cow and sheep dung is the Striped Dung Fly (Oxysarcodexia varia). Given that it appears capable of vectoring diseases as diverse as tapeworms and viruses, and it is undeniably attracted to humans, then this species is likely to be capable of vectoring diseases from livestock dung to humans in NZ.

A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

Will shallow burial of dung increase disease risk?

It has been suggested that shallow burial of dung may increase levels of some pathogens and parasites in soils because of their protection from the sanitizing effects of sunlight and drying. Common sense and science show this to be wrong. Burying dung reduces runoff into waterways. The World Health Organisation Guidelines are always to bury feces. Burial of feces is the best practice because it reduces the possibility of animal and insect transmission of pathogens (e.g. by flies). Dung beetles go one better as unlike mechanical burial of dung, the processing of dung into brood balls by adult dung beetles, and direct feeding by dung beetles and their larvae kills parasite eggs and larvae.

A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

Will dung beetles increase the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in people in NZ?

This is considered to be extremely unlikely.

Globally, infection by E. coli 0157: H7 in humans is most often associated with ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by livestock dung (e.g. runoff into lakes/rivers). Infections have also been traced to direct contact with animals. The disease occurs in other organisms, including birds and insects (for example house flies which, unlike dung beetles, are attracted to human food).

Public health experts in Australia have told us they are confident there are no health risks associated with dung beetles in Australia. Indeed, in Australia, dung beetles are generally considered to have a positive impact on public health by reducing the amount of dung in pastures and by reducing contaminated runoff into waterways. The rate of reported infections by E. coli O157: H7 are much higher in NZ than Australia.

A fuller referenced answer can be found here and in the report Human Illness Caused by E. coli O157:H7 from Food and Non-food Sources.

Will dogs in NZ be at greater risk from the nematode Spirocerca lupi?

For the reasons listed below we do not consider that the introduction of the 11 proposed species of dung beetles will increase the risk of dogs contracting this parasite in NZ:

  1. NZ is only introducing beetles with a preference for large mammal herbivore dung.
  2. Spirocerca lupi is not currently present in New Zealand.
  3. S. lupi appears to be confined to tropical or sub-tropical regions.
  4. NZ does not have a feral dog or wild canid population that can provide an untreated reservoir.
  5. Anthelmintic drugs are effective both as a preventative and for treatment.
  6. Evidence from Australia indicates that dung beetles are not vectoring S. lupi.
  7. NZ already has a self-introduced species of Australian dung beetle that exploit dog dung.

The reason why we have not already got a problem is probably due to the reasons in 2, 3, 4, and 6 above? A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

What drenches are safe to use with dung beetles?

Some parasiticide families (e.g. synthetic pyrethroids and macrocyclic lactones e.g. avermectins) are lethal to certain, if not all, life stages of dung beetles and other dung-feeding fauna. However, the toxicity of the residuals in the dung diminishes (by varying degrees) over time depending on the active chemical. Therefore not all dung at any one time is lethal to dung beetles or laden with sub-lethal doses that may adversely affect populations of dung beetles. However, for best results dung beetle friendly drench families (e.g. anthelmintics, moxidectins) may be useful. See Dung Beetle Friendly Management Practices.

Will beetles help reduce dung odour in semi-rural areas?

Smell is likely to be reduced but not eliminated. Efficacy depends on the state of the dung beetle population, how much dung is buried, how quickly, etc. An abundant population of one or more species is likely to remove a significant proportion of dung.

Can we still harrow paddocks while the colonies are getting established?

Harrowing paddocks with fresh dung can have negative consequences on dung beetles. If you are harrowing wait at least a week after the animals have vacated the paddock then this will be ok given the beetles will have utilised what manure they need within 5-7 days of them colonising fresh dung piles. Fresh as in freshly voided to 24 hours old manure is what the beetles colonise. In time your beetle population will become abundant and will do a good job of controlling much of the dung on the paddocks when they are active.

Will beetles utilise bird dung?

The species proposed for release in New Zealand are specific to the dung of grazing ungulate herbivores and will not utilize bird droppings. However, some species of beetles in other countries do utilize bird droppings.

Will dung beetles eat anything else?

Adult dung beetles do not have to chew mouthparts and so are not capable of eating plant roots or any material that requires chewing. They simply suck the liquid component of feces and filter the suspended nutrients. The larvae (grubs) of dung beetles do have chewing mouthparts but they are confined to balls or sausages of dung prepared in burrows beneath the soil surface by the adult beetles.

Will beetles move in and out of cropping farms between visits by grazing cattle in the summer?

Yes. Active adults will go where the dung is by flying in sweeping search patterns across wind flow until they home in on the scent of fresh dung.

Will beetles collect dung along with straw and bury it?

Dung beetles will bury dung. If there is undigested straw/stubble in dung then they will only utilize the finer, nutrient-rich components of the dung.

Will dung beetles swarm at night around my house?

This is very unlikely. There are no records of this happening in Australia where 23 species of exotic dung beetle have been established in recent decades.

Will dung beetles become so common they in themselves become pests?

No. Dung beetles will become as common as the amount of food available to them. Although there are huge numbers of dung beetles present in most Australian pastures they do not cause any problems.

Will dung beetles transmit diseases?

This is extremely unlikely. Landcare Research have conducted trials which suggests beetles are unlikely to vector animal diseases like TB (see Research Trials), and there are no known occurrences around the world where exotic dung beetles have increased the risks of animal or human diseases on or around farms. While it is possible to detect pathogenic bacteria on dung beetles, this is also true for all insects that are in contact with dung; including flies, cockroaches, earthworms, and other beetles. Flies, given their attraction to both animals and our food, are far more likely to transmit pathogens than dung beetles. The dung beetles proposed for introduction to NZ will bury fresh dung, putting it out of reach of insects such as flies. This will reduce the likelihood of pathogen transmission to human food. We expect the introduced dung beetles to have a small, but positive effect, on human health. Australian public health professionals agree with this conclusion.

Will dung beetles interact negatively with indigenous New Zealand invertebrates or other animals?

Very unlikely. The dung beetle species proposed for release are open-habitat specialists, so their overlap with the forest-specialist native dung beetles will be very slight (e.g. forest margins). The introduced dung beetles will only be common in open habitats where fresh dung from large mammalian herbivores is common. These are already highly altered habitats dominated by exotic grasses. Dung beetles will only occur occasionally in for example tussock grassland where wild deer graze because the density of deer in these habitats is only about 1 animal per square kilometer.

Will dung beetles negatively affect earthworms?

Earthworms currently play an important role in the breakdown of older drier livestock dung, in the reduction of forage contamination, in nutrient cycling, and in the productivity of New Zealand pastures. However, earthworm activity can be spatially and climatically limited. For example, most earthworm species operate effectively from autumn to spring when soils are sufficiently wet for them to move through. With two exceptions, the dung beetle species proposed for importation are active in the drier summer season, and will not compete directly with earthworms for food resources. However, Bubas bison (winter to spring) and Geotrupes spiniger (summer to winter) are likely to overlap with earthworm activity. However, rather than competing, studies in Australia have recently shown that burial of pastoral dung by these two beetle species increases both the number and biomass of earthworms and the depth at which earthworms were active.

Will dung beetles improve the soil in dryland regions and cause native plants that are dependent on poor soils to be outcompeted by rank growth of introduced grasses?

Very unlikely. Stocking rates in such dryland areas are very low, so there is only a small amount of fresh dung available per hectare at any given time, meaning that dung beetle numbers will be low. Dung beetles will not use accumulated old dry dung.

Lifestyle Block - How do we define a Lifestyle Package?

This dung beetle package caters for lifestyle block owners with a small number of animals compared to a commercial livestock farmer. There are approximately 150 beetles in a colony which is sufficient for establishment and enable the dung beetle population to grow rapidly over several years to reach saturation on your property. Saturation is the carrying capacity of dung beetles proportional to the amount of manure produced by grazing livestock. The point of saturation can be achieved sooner if an additional colony is purchased owing to a greater number of beetles being released.

Lifestyle Block - Are there any risks to be aware of before ordering?

While we are happy to be making small affordable colonies available for lifestyle block owners there are risks. Dung beetles fly and do not respect property boundaries! Having only 1 or 2 animals or a period when there are no animals on your property may result in your beetles moving to other sources of manure in adjoining properties. This is less likely for 2 or 3 large volume manure producers like horses and cattle and more likely for a few small volume manure producers like sheep, deer, goats, or alpaca.
If there is a good daily supply of freshly voided manure then dung beetles will invariably opt to stay. New beetles emerging in greater numbers than the carrying capacity of your property will migrate through necessity.
Having your neighbours invest in Lifestyle Block Packages will help to offset the risk and spread the load of dung beetles across a greater range.
Drenches: It is important to be aware of the potential impact the drenches you are using have on dung beetles before you order because many drenches have varying degrees of toxicity to dung feeding fauna. For a better understanding of the potential impact of drench residuals on dung beetles, go to this blog post.

Lifestyle Block - What beetles are sold in the Lifestyle Block Package and what are the costs?

Two types of dung beetle are available in the Lifestyle Block Package: Onthophagus binodis for the North Island; and, Onthophagus taurus for the South Island. Both onthophagines have multiple generations in an active season and with eggs to adults in 8 weeks their population numbers grow exponentially.
There are two options for the Lifestyle Block Package:
Option 1. One colony of either species (depending on where you are) = $575 (incl. GST) + shipping (NI $14, SI $20).
Option 2*. Two colonies of one species = $1,035 (incl. GST) + shipping (NI $14, SI $20).

*Caters for 20 or more livestock animals in the lifestyle block. Releasing a greater number of beetles also improves establishment success and accelerates rate of population growth to achieve sustained saturation of beetles proportional to the amount of manure being generated during the beetle’s active season.
We use Courier Post and the Rural Delivery network.

Lifestyle Block - How do we pay for the Lifestyle Block Package?

Go to our order page. Fill in the required details and select the Lifestyle Block Package. We will send you an email confirmation with payment details and order number. Note this puts you on the priority waiting list. Beetles are only sent out when they are at their most abundant (for binodis and taurus this is between January and March).

Lifestyle Block - How much of the year do we have dung beetle activity with the species of dung beetle offered in the Lifestyle Package?

Both species of dung beetle on offer in the Lifestyle Block Package start to emerge from their overwintering hibernation and begin the task of dung removal for nesting from late August. Population numbers become greatest from December through to late April. Beetles then enter the overwintering phase underground either as adults (taurus) or as larvae (binodis). There are late autumn and winter active dung beetle species available in the commercial Single Species Packages for $2,300.

Lifestyle Block - When do we receive beetles?

Shipment of Lifestyle Packages occurs between January and March. Those who order early are higher up the priority list and tend to get the earlier colonies to maximise population growth before the season ends.

Lifestyle Block - Can we propagate our own beetles to release a bigger colony?

Yes. You can grow more beetles from the colony you receive prior to releasing them using a fish bin. Drill a series of drainage holes in the bottom of the fish bin approx. 4-5mm in diameter. Choose a warm sheltered spot out of direct sunlight for half of the day to set up your breeding colony. Fill three-quarters of the bin with mostly dry topsoil or clay loamy soil sifted to remove stones, lumps and detritus. Lightly compact the soil. Add fresh manure to cover one half of the soil surface. Add the beetles then cover with shade mesh secured firmly with a tight band of bungy or shock chord. Mesh that has larger diameter holes is better than finer grade mesh because it allows improved air circulation to prevent humidity and fungus build-up. Add fresh manure to the second half of the soil in 7 days. You will now have half of the bin covered with week old dung and the other half with fresh dung. The next time dung is added remove the oldest dung pile and replace the fresh dung in its place. Repeat this step each week for 8 weeks. Several hundred new beetles will emerge around this time. New beetles take a week or two to become sexually mature before they mate and commence nesting. During the maturation process beetles just eat then sit tight in shallow sleeper cells under the soil surface. Release the beetles when ready.

Lifestyle Block - I have to clean dung off my paddocks. Will this interfere with the establishment process of the dung beetles?

Potentially yes. It takes a 4-5 years post release for beetle numbers to build up to see obvious reductions in dung on the paddocks and an end to dung collection. The more packages you buy the sooner that will be. In the interim you may need to continue some degree of dung management especially with horses. One option is to create dung lines taped off along a fence line in the middle of your property. Add the manure to the end of this line each time you collect it. Spread it out a bit so that you increase the area of soil real estate beneath it for more beetles to nest in without competing for space. This line essentially becomes a dung beetle breeding factory! Old unused dung further up the line can be used for compost, harrowed, or removed as the beetles will have used what they want within 7 days and moved down the line colonising the fresh manure.

Lifestyle Block - How long does it take to see establishment and a noticeable improvement in dung removal off my paddocks with the Lifestyle Package?

It usually takes 2-3 years post release to see evidence of dung beetle establishment on a commercial farm. However, we have had evidence of establishment in as little as 2 months for the beetles available in the Lifestyle Package. Seeing the evidence is the trick. These beetles mine the dung beneath the crust and transport it down tunnels under the manure piles out of sight. In the early stages turn over and pick through manure piles that are a couple of days old to see holes and or beetles. The best time to observe this is when their numbers are greatest from January to March. When beetle abundance is increasing after a few years post release there will be beetles flying around just above the ground following the smell of fresh dung, and the manure piles will look shredded or clearly worked over by beetles. You may also see soil casts or push-ups appearing. After 4-5 years’ abundance will be high with dozens of beetles colonising each manure pile. This is when you will see obvious reductions in dung on the pasture surface. Full carry capacity is reached in 6 to 9 years.

Lifestyle Block - I have alpacas and the males tend to create dung middens. Will the dung beetles bury the dung from these middens?

Dung beetles utilise fresh voided manure. Old manure no longer emits the chemical volatiles that attract the beetles and has lost its appeal through UV degradation and decomposition. They will however manage the fresh manure on the middens and in time those will become dung beetle breeding hubs!

Lifestyle Block - I have chickens free ranging over my livestock paddocks. Will the dung beetles eat their poo? And will the chickens or wild turkeys eat the dung beetles?

All species of pastoral dung beetle we have permission to import to New Zealand utilise only the manure of grazing herbivorous mammals such as cattle, horses, sheep, deer, goats and alpacas. Chickens are opportunist foragers eating whatever invertebrates they can scratch for. Dung beetles may well be targeted if the chickens pick through dung piles. However, dung beetles tend to spend virtually all their lives protected in fresh manure rather than old crusts or underneath dung piles in nesting tunnels. Their developing grubs are protected within balls of dung 20-30 cm beneath the pasture surface. Predation on adult beetles or their young is therefore likely to be minimal.