Reproductive sublethal effects of macrocyclic lactones and synthetic pyrethroids on dung beetle Onthophagus similis

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Dung-colonising beetles provide a range of ecosystem services in farmland pasture systems. However, such beetles are declining in Northern temperate regions. This may, in part, be due to the widespread use of macrocyclic lactones (MLs) and synthetic pyrethroids (SPs) in livestock farming. These chemicals are used to control pests and parasites of cattle; the residues of which are excreted in dung at concentrations toxic to insects. While the lethal effects of such residues are well known, sublethal effects are less understood. Any effects, however, may have important consequences for beetle populations, particularly if they affect reproduction. To investigate, the impact of ML and SP exposure on the reproductive output of Onthophagus similis (Scriba), a Northern temperate dung beetle species, was examined. In laboratory trials, field-collected adult O. similis exposed to the ML ivermectin at 1 ppm (wet weight) over a period of 3 weeks had smaller oocytes (p=0.016), smaller fat bodies and reduced motility compared to the control. In a farm-level investigation, cattle dung-baited pitfall trapping was undertaken on 23 beef cattle farms in SW England, which either used MLs (n=9), SPs (n=7) or neither chemical (n=7). On farms that used no MLs or SPs, 24.2% of females caught were gravid. However, on farms that used MLs no gravid females were caught, and only 1% of the beetles caught on farms using SPs were gravid (p<0.001). The association between ML and SP use and impaired reproductive output suggests that the use of such chemicals is likely to be ecologically damaging.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalBulletin of Entomological Research
Early online date1 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2019


  • Dung beetle
  • ivermectin
  • macrocyclic lactone
  • parasiticide
  • pesticide
  • reproductive output
  • synthetic pyrethroid


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