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Little pasture cockchafers

Little pasture cockchafer beetles (Australaphodius frenchi) have been identified for consultant, Sandy Biddulph (Biddulph Rural Consulting), from a canola crop south of Cootamundra, in the South West Slopes district of New South Wales. Sandy reports finding up to 10 beetles per metre row along with scalloped cotyledons and a few plants with just a stem remaining. We have also identified little pasture cockchafers for research officer, Geoff Davis (AgriTech), and agronomist, Ian Pursehouse (Landmark), who have both collected samples from canola crops around Young, in the South West Slopes district of New South Wales. In recent weeks, little pasture cockchafer beetles have also been observed in several paddocks in South Australia and Western Australia. In previous years high numbers of little pasture cockchafer beetles have been observed in canola crops in the Wimmera and Western Districts of Victoria.

Little pasture cockchafers are elongated black coloured beetles, approximately 3-4 mm in length. They have striations down their back and can be confused with various dung beetles.  They belong to the Family Scarabaeidae and are found in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. Despite the numerous reports of this species, we have still not been able to definitively attribute any crop damage to the little pasture cockchafer as they have not been observed feeding directly on crop plants.

Only a small amount is known about the biology and feeding habits of the little pasture cockchafer, although they are not reported to feed on living plant material. Adults and larvae are believed to be coprophagous: consuming and redigesting animal dung. Paddocks where high numbers of these beetles have been sighted should be closely monitored to better understand the situation and to help ascertain the pest status of the little pasture cockchafer. The crops in question have typically all been canola sown into paddocks with a strong pasture history.

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