Estimating biocontrol agent spread: A case study using introduced dung beetles

Marcela Del Carmen Vieira, Jake Manger, Benedict White, Jacob D. Berson, Fiona Dempster, Theodore A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insect biological control agents may be released in relatively few locations; thus, the rate of spread is critical to predicting the spatial distribution of the agent. Exotic dung beetles have been introduced into Australia since the 1960s to bury dung, reduce bush fly populations, increase pasture productivity and improve livestock health. We use a stochastic cellular automata model to predict the historical occupancy and abundance of introduced dung beetles in the South West agricultural region of Western Australia. The model predicts the spread of four species of dung beetles in six-month time steps for 10 years following initial release. Our model includes release locations, species-specific ecological parameters, dung resource availability and weather variables. The average rate of spread varied between species from a high of ca. 79 km/year (Euoniticellus intermedius) to a low of 28 km/year (Onthophagus taurus). Thus, after 10 years, the area of spread varied between 99,175 and 34,175 km2 and abundance varied from 88,100 to 4,189 beetles/km2. These findings provide an estimate of the spread patterns of dung beetles. The model can be used to guide future dung beetle release programmes in Australia and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number1
Early online date23 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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