Dung Beetles


The following list of introduced Dung Beetle species can be found in Central Queensland:


Common Name




Copris elphenor   Tunneller   Summer rainfall
Euoniticellus intermedius Northern sandy
dung beetle
Tunneller Day Flyer Summer rainfall
Liatongus militaris   Tunneller Day Flyer Summer rainfall
Onitis viridulus Emerald dung beetle Tunneller Dusk/Dawn Flyer Summer rainfall
Onitis alexis Bronze dung beetle Tunneller
Dusk/Dawn Flyer Summer and
Winter rainfall
Onthophagus gazella   Tunneller Dusk/Dawn Flyer Summer rainfall
Onthophagus nigriventris Gazella dung beetle Tunneller   Summer rainfall
Onthophagus sagittarius   Tunneller   Summer rainfall
Sisyphus rubrus Brown dung-ball roller Ball Roller Day Flyer Summer rainfall
Sisyphus spinipes Grey dung-ball roller Ball Roller Day Flyer Summer rainfall

Information sheet to assist with identifying Dung Beetles in Central Queensland.

If you find a Dung Beetle that is not in the Information sheet please contact

Introduced Dung Beetles

Introduced Dung Beetles play a remarkable role in agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve nutrient recycling and soil structure.

The benefits of Introduced dung beetles to graziers are:

  • Helps the soil to retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Provides a readily available source of biological carbon for soil and plant growth.
  • Reduces input-costs for growing crops and pastures.
  • Nitrogen in animal dung is buried and sequestered direct into the soil
  • Minimises the loss of nitrogen as ammonia to the atmosphere.
  • Minimises the loss of nitrous oxide to the atmosphere.
  • Recycles of phosphorous contained in animal dung directly into the soil.
  • Reduces the requirement for Nitrogen and Phosphorous inputs and associated costs.
  • Aerates the soil by burrowing beetles.
  • Enhances infiltration of rainfall and minimises loss from a reduced rainfall.
  • Almost immediate burial of wet and odorous dung from the soil surface into the soil.
  • Removal of dung that is the substrate for flies to lay eggs and support larvae. This assists to protect livestock by removing breeding habitats for flies and worms.

The introduced dung beetles are very useful in Australia's agricultural regions. Where they are well established, these dung beetles bury large volumes of cattle dung, with many benefits for soil, water and pasture, as well as biological control of the bush fly.

Most native dung beetle species eat marsupial dung from kangaroos and wallabies and they don’t process the moist dung of domestic farm animals very well. A few native species mainly in southern Australia can consume the moister dung of horses, sheep and cattle.

Consider Your Dung Beetles When Using Parasiticides

The grazing industry currently uses a large range of veterinary chemicals. Those applied to control livestock parasites are referred to as parasiticides. In the Queensland cattle industry, chemicals are used to control both internal parasites (e.g. gastrointestinal worms) and external parasites such as ticks, lice and buffalo fly. The degree of use depends mainly on the locality, cattle breed and the herd management system.

Parasiticides can be divided into three main groups, namely endectocides, ectocides and anthelmintics. Endectocides, such as ivermectin doramectin and moxidectin are effective against a wide range of internal and external parasites. Ectocides are used against external parasites and anthelmintics against internal parasites.

Each parasiticides has one or more active constituents, which may be used by more than one company, resulting in up to several trade names for the same basic product. Trade names often give no indication as to the active constituent/s present. The active constituents are always listed on the container label beneath the trade name.

Impact of Parasiticides on Dung Beetles

Reports of laboratory studies have led to a growing realisation that the active constituents of many parasiticides or their breakdown products may harm dung beetles.

Effects can range from the death of an adult beetles, eggs or larvae to some form of impairment such as lowered breeding capacity of adults or retarded growth of larvae. This resultant impact on dung beetle populations is not known at present. Unfortunately there is also little or no available information about the tonicity of many chemicals for dung beetles.

Repeated use of some known higher risk products during the breeding season could reduce beetle populations on individual properties, with effects possibly extending to adjoining properties holdings. It is in the best interests of the cattle industry to encourage these beneficial insects, which in returning dung to the soil, improve its aeration, increase nutrient recycling and assist in the control of cattle parasites that breed in dung.

The risk of harmful effects from chemical treatment coupled with a general lack of easily accessible information has created confusion amongst some produces who desire to treat parasites without harming their dung beetles.

The key to choosing appropriate parasiticides for your cattle is to:

  1. Determine the parasite/s that you want to treat.
  2. Identify the active constituents registered for their effective control.
  3. Be aware of the side effects those chemicals may have on dung beetles.

Use the tables to help select an active constituent for your parasite problem that is low-risk for dung beetles.

If circumstances require a higher risk chemical, try to reduce its impact by following the suggestions in this page and in the AgForce Strategic use of Parasiticides can help your Dung Beetles.

Known effects of different types of active constituents on dung beetles are shown in
Table 1. Effects on dung beetles exposed to dung from cattle treated with various parasiticides as either pour-on, injectable or spray formulations.
Note that at most only a few dung beetle species have been tested against some of the active constituents available in 2003. The possible impact of higher risk chemicals on dung beetle survival will vary depending on method and timing of application, frequency of treatment and the proportion of your total herd treated.

Table 2. Trade names and active constituents of endectocides and ectocides registered for cattle as pour-on, injectable or spray formulations.

Usage, excretion routes and toxic effects of Parasiticides

Macrocyclic Lactones (Mls)

  • Mls have the broadest spectrum of activity of all. Avermectins have been used in beef cattle for years against worms and cattle tick.
  • Eprinomectin and moxidectin are now registered for use on dairy cattle. Macrocyclic lactones are excreted in the dung of treated animals.
  • Avermectins exert their most harmful effects in dung for a period of two to three weeks after treatment. If used in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions for the treatment of cattle avermectins is not known to be harmful to dung beetles.
  • Some dung beetle species are more susceptible to avermectins than others.

Synthetic Pyrethroids (SPs)

  • Once used extensively for cattle tick control, these are now employed mainly against buffalo fly. The fly has developed a high level of resistance to most SPs in some areas.
  • Probably all synthetic pyrethroids are excreted in the dung of treated animals, but their tonicity for dung beetles vary. Most SPs tested showed some insecticidal effects.
  • Some SPs can cause high mortality in adult beetles for up to a week or more after treatment and thus have considerable potential to affect beetle populations.
  • Some dung beetle species are more susceptible to SPs than others.

Organophosphates (OPs)

  • Ops can provide effective and economical control of ticks, buffalo flies and lice.
  • Two Ops (chlorfenvinphos and diazinon) are also registered for use in both back rubbers and ear tags.
  • There are reports of low level resistance to both chlorfenvinphos and diazinon in buffalo fly.
  • A useful strategy for buffalo fly control in south east Queensland is to fit OP ear tags to cattle in January, which provide control until the end of the fly season. OP sprays can be used earlier in the season of control is necessary.
  • No information is available about possible toxic effects of Ops for dung beetles - chlorfenvinphos and diazinon are mainly excreted in the urine and thus unlikely to be harmful.

Growth Regulators & Amines

  • Used for the control of ticks.
  • Inadequate information is currently available about excretion routes of fluazuron and amitraz and their effects on dung beetles.


  • Used for control of gastronomical worms and flukes.
  • Generally not harmful to beetles. Main excretion route of the drugs or their residues can be via either urine or dung.

Other Chemicals — SP/OP combinations

  • These blends were developed largely to control the wide spread DDT–resistant cattle ticks exhibiting a low level of cross resistance to the SPs.
    These are:
    cypermethrin plus chlorfenvinphos (in Barricade ‘S’, Blockade ‘S’);
    deltamethrin plus ethion (in Tixafly and Arrest Dips & Sprays for Cattle).
  • These are commonly used but, because they contain much less SP than products containing the same SPs alone, they may be less harmful to dung beetles than the latter.

- o O O o -

    This publication is intended to provide producers with information to enable them to choose parasiticides and parasite control strategies to minimise the impact on their dung beetles. The information is not intended to reflect upon the efficacy of any product as a parasiticide. The material is based on information contained in CSIRO Contracted Report #56 by K. G. Wardhaugh (2000) ; Parasiticides registered for use in cattle in Australia - an annotated bibliography and literature guide prepared far the National Dung Beetle Planning Forum, in the scientific literature mentioned therein or located independently.
This Note is provided for general information only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought. Agforce Queensland and the Queensland Dung Beetle Project Management Committee have taken all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, no warranty is made to the completeness of the information.
Published: April 2003

Healthy Soils Inc recommends that only parasiticides be used which are safe of Dung Beetles.

Please Note:

Dung beetle information on this website is general and producers should seek professional advice before planning and implementing their parasite control strategies.