Title page for ETD etd-03052012-152540

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Arnaudin, Mary Elin
URN etd-03052012-152540
Title Benefits of Dung Beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) on Nutrient Cycling and Forage Growth in Alpaca Pastures
Degree Master of Science
Department Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Teutsch, Christopher D. Committee Chair
Abaye, Azenegashe Ozzie Committee Member
Watson, D. Wesley Committee Member
Wildeus, Stephan Committee Member
  • dung beetles
  • nutrient cycle
  • alpaca
  • crabgrass
Date of Defense 2012-02-28
Availability unrestricted
Alpacas have been gaining prominence in the U.S. since the early 1980s. In pastures, dung beetle activity has been shown to enhance the degradation and incorporation of dung into the soil. The benefits of this activity have been quantified for cattle, but not for alpacas. The objectives of this study were to document the dung beetle species present in alpaca pastures, and to evaluate the impact of dung beetle activity on the growth of a common summer annual grass. In 2010 and 2011, dung beetle species present in alpaca pastures located at Virginia State University (VSU), were evaluated weekly from late May until late August. Eleven species of dung beetles were found, with Onthophagus taurus Schreber being the most dominant. In 2011, a greenhouse study was conducted at Virginia Tech’s Southern Piedmont Research Station. Treatments included a control (no dung, no beetles), dung only, dung with five pairs of O. taurus, and dung that was allowed to be colonized in alpaca pastures at VSU. The addition of O. taurus and the field colonization both significantly increased total yield over the no dung control by 10% and 14%, respectively. These results indicate that healthy and diverse dung beetle communities occur in alpaca pastures in the mid-Atlantic region, and that the presence of these beetles would likely enhance nutrient cycling and pasture growth. However, it is important to remember that dung beetles are just one component of many found in a healthy grassland ecosystem, and the functions of these components are interrelated.
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