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Little pasture cockchafer

Grower, Rick Lang, has reported damage to a young canola crop (1-2 leaf stage) near Charlton, in the Northern Country district of Victoria. Bare patches were present within the paddock and plants were found with leaves chewed off and only stems remaining. No insects were found when visually searching, so pitfall traps were set up and left in the paddock for several days. Examination of the contents of these traps has detected several little pasture cockchafer (Australaphodius frenchi) beetles. 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 Scarabaeidae family and are found in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

In the past we have received numerous reports of this species associated with damage to young canola crops. Despite these reports, it is difficult to positively attribute any crop damage to the little pasture cockchafer as they have not been observed feeding directly on crop plants. Little is known about the biology and feeding habits of the little pasture cockchafer, although adults and larvae are believed to be coprophagous: consuming and redigesting animal dung. Paddocks where high numbers of these beetles have been sighted generally have a strong pasture history and moderate or heavy livestock grazing. Rick says this paddock in question is an old pasture paddock that was chemically fallowed last year.

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