Dung Beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae) of North Carolina Cattle Pastures and Their Implications for Pasture Improvement

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Title: Dung Beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae and Geotrupidae) of North Carolina Cattle Pastures and Their Implications for Pasture Improvement
Author: Bertone, Matthew Alan
Advisors: James T. Green, Committee Member
Clyde E. Sorenson, Committee Member
D. Wesley Watson, Committee Chair
Abstract: Dung beetles in the families Scarabaeidae (subfamilies Aphodiinae, Scarabaeinae and Coprinae) and Geotrupidae (Geotrupinae) aid in the decomposition of dung, providing many benefits to pasture and animal health. They compete with pestiferous flies and parasitic nematodes for dung resources, enrich the soil by burying large quantities of nutritious dung and effectively mix and aerate soil through tunneling. Very little is known about the composition of dung beetle species existing in North Carolina cattle pastures or their seasonal activity. Dung-baited pitfall trapping was conducted for 18 months in cattle pastures of two distinct regions of NC, the piedmont and the coastal plains. Data from the piedmont and coastal plains revealed a disparity in species richness (14 and 28 species, respectively) and beetle numbers (20 traps yielding 85,882 beetles and 10 traps yielding 4,111 beetles, respectively). However, both sites were dominated by nine exotic dung beetles and had similar species compositions. The seasonal activity of 30 species is reported, including two new state records, Aphodius prodromus Brahm and Onthophagus gazella (Fabricius). These data represent important background information on the relative abundance and richness of dung beetle species in North Carolina. Two additional studies evaluated the benefit of dung beetles on soil nutrition, and the off-target effects of the insect growth regulator methoprene on dung beetle populations. The activity of two species of tunneling dung beetles (Onthophagus gazella and Onthophagus taurus Schreber) was found to contribute to the general nutrition of three soil types (piedmont clay, coastal plains sandy-loam and play sand) under laboratory conditions. Beetles reproducing in the soils buried dung for brood production, elevating levels of major and minor plant nutrients, as well as altering other soil properties (including pH, cation exchange capacity and exchangeable acidity). Methoprene was successfully used for the control of the horn fly [Haematobia irritans (L.)] in an area-wide program in Nash Co., NC. The trapping of dung beetles in the program area before and after treatment, compared to a pesticide free area, revealed no significant reduction in the populations of several common beetle species. However, additional monitoring, through trapping, is needed to determine the long-term effects of methoprene usage.
Date: 2004-04-13
Degree: MS
Discipline: Entomology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1952

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