Friday, January 13, 2006

Scarabaeidae in Ontario?

After many fruitless hours, I recently sent off this email to a local entomologist, specializing in Scarabaeidae:

Greetings Mr. Génier,

I understand that you are the Ottawa area expert in Dung Beetles. I wouldn't normally approach a complete stranger and ask him about excrement management, however, I saw a picture of you standing next to a rather peculiar piece of artwork at the London Zoo. I figured a man who could pose with a sculpture of frighteningly large beetles rolling a gargantuan ball of dung that could only have been produced by King Kong, or some hitherto undiscovered monolithic mammal, would have a sense of humour. He might, therefore, indulge my
naïveté in regards to Scarabaeidae and offer me a few words of advice.

To be blunt, I'm looking for shit-disturbers in Ontario. While I know of some politicians who might qualify, I believe I am looki
ng for those of the Scarabaeinae variety. Research of local dung beetles has proven rather difficult, however, as most searches net results on the African varieties studied by 3rd graders world-wide (no doubt giggling collectively at each mention of the word "dung"). Therefore, I would greatly appreciate any assistance you could give me in this area.

I am desperately seeking information on Ottawa area varieties of dung beetles, including habitat, lifecycle, and (if possible) how to make a sheep pasture more habitable, or their 'cuisine' more palatable, in the hopes of attracting a larger number of beetles (translating into better manure dispersal).

My primary interest is in alternative methods of parasitic infestation reduction in pasture-based small ruminants within South-Eastern Ontario. Rather than routinely treating chronically infected animals with chemical dewormers (
increasing the likelihood of creating resistant strains of parasites), my goal is to disperse the source -- the manure -- as quickly, efficiently, and beneficially as possible, thereby significantly reducing the animal's exposure in the first place. Theoretically, through the combined use of rotational stocking (letting each paddock rest a month between grazing, disrupting the parasite's lifecycle) and manure management by dung beetles, parasitic infestation can be drastically reduced. Occasional problems could then be dealt with on a case by case basis with herbal remedies, such as garlic extract.

The information you provide could have profound effects on the livestock industry as a whole, creating cleaner, safer and more holistically sound pastures world-wide. Your response could start a revolution!

Or, it could just make me very happy.

Eagerly awaiting your re

Elaine Prince

I sincerely hope he has a sense of humour ;)

Oh! I might have actually found a variety of Dung Beetle from Canada. I found it through an insect framing company (you know- the kind that packages butterflies into nice displays?)
- Onthophagus nuchicornis.

Typing in the above variety lead me to an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada website with a couple dozen links to various dung beetle varieties in Canada, including Aphodius prodromus, which apparently prefers horse, sheep and human dung to cattle. Aphodius vittatus apparently is a "generalist", having no preference. As an added bonus, it's found over all of southern Canada.

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