Dung doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but his week a new project, known as DUMP, has been all over the news. The project team are here to try and convince you that dung really is fun.
How often do you think about dung? Possibly not at all, yet without Dung Beetles we would literally be up to our necks in it.
There’s no doubt, Dung Beetles are an important group of insects, particularly for the agricultural environment. Recent research estimated that dung beetles save the UK cattle industry £367 million per year (Beynon et al. 2015). They provide all sorts of ecosytem services, including their famous ‘dung removal’ and others you may not be aware of. For instance, they reduce gastrointestinal parasites of livestock, nuisance flies, and play a key role in improving soil condition through aeration and nutrient recycling.
In the UK there are 100 species of Scarabaeoidea, which includes the Dung Beetles, Chafer and Stag Beetles. Over half of these are dependent on dung. As part of the on-going Species Status Assessment Project with Natural England in collaboration with Buglife , a review of the scarce and threatened Dung Beetles and Chafers is currently in progress (S.A. Lane & D.J. Mann, in prep.). The preliminary results indicate an alarming decline in our Dung Beetle fauna.
Just over 25% of UK Dung Beetles are ‘Nationally Rare’ and four species may even have become extinct in the past 50 years. This project also highlighted the lack of modern records for many of the rare species and that many areas of the UK are severely under recorded.
All this prompted us (Darren J. Mann, Steve Lane, Sally-Ann Spence & Ceri Watkins) to go out and look for beetles and to re-survey sites where rare species were previously known. DUMP was born.
The Dung Beetle UK Mapping Project (DUMP) aims to record Dung Beetles across the UK, provide distributional records and gather information on habitat requirements and ecology. The DUMP team will also engage with landowners, farmers and the general public on the benefits and value of dung beetles.
Over the past few years the team has travelled across the country from the Orkneys to the Channel Islands sampling across a range of habitats. A targeted survey for Onthophagus nuchicornis discovered healthy populations in North Devon and South Wales, but highlighted the dramatic decline of this species in its previous strongholds in Norfolk and Suffolk.
We also made some positive new discoveries including finding the rare Aphodius lividus and Aphodius sordidus on the Norfolk–Suffolk border, and Aphodius porcus at a new site in South Wales.
The DUMP project is in its early stages and comprised of a small team of volunteers. In the near future we hope to provide further information, distributions maps, online recording, and advice for management plans to help conserve our dung-inhabiting fauna. You can help out on social media too – tell the world why Dung Beetles matter and why #dungisfun!
Ceri Watkins, TCV Natural Talent Trainee