Tech & Science

Cow Patty Critters: Alberta scientist releases guide identifying insects found in cattle dung

Alberta entomologist Kevin Float is ready to spread the news that he’s put together a comprehensive guide to insects in Canada’s cow dung.

Float, a scientist with the Canadian Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food at the Lethbridge Research and Development Center in southern Alberta, said he began studying insects in cow dung about 30 years ago.

That’s when he realized he needed one source to help him get started.

“It didn’t exist. So, 30 years later, I wrote that guide, and it’s aimed at ranchers and farmers, students and naturalists,” said a PhD in entomology. said Float, who wrote the book. Cow Patty Creatures: A New Guide to Canadian Fecal Companions.

“Some of you may have asked the question, ‘What’s in your poop?'” This is the guide I wrote for you. “

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Cow dung, sometimes known as cowpatties, cowpies, or cowchips, is a variety of names given its soft texture and tendency to accumulate in circular formations.

Beaver, Oklahoma has hosted the World Cow Chip Toss Contest since 1969, and singer Jim Stafford composed a joking hit in 1981. beef patty.

Float said he doesn’t mind a bit of ridicule about his profession, despite the potential for numerous scatological jokes.

“It’s an unusual subject, but I accept it because it’s everywhere,” Float said with a laugh.

“So I don’t care about bad puns. When you’re working on cowpies, you get a lot of bad puns.”

Float said he has spent much of his career studying the effects of chemicals in cow dung and their effects on the insects that live there.

He said Canada has an estimated 110 million manure deposits each year.

He has identified over 300 species of insects in his dung detective handbook, of which only three are considered harmful: horn flies, face flies, and stable flies.

He said other animals like dung beetles could also play an important role, especially in pastures.

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“Some of those beetles bury their droppings underground in tunnels. Tunneling makes the soil more permeable to water and oxygen, and the small clumps of droppings that the beetles push underground are small clumps of fertilizer. It’s like, it helps plants grow,” said Float.

He said the beetle’s behavior disperses seeds, pollinates plants, and is ultimately eaten by birds and small mammals higher up the food chain.

Float said the faecal dispersion also reduces the number of pests that breed and afflict the cows.

© 2023 Canadian Press

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