The American Burying Beetle: An Animal of Interest


The American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americans) is the largest of the carrion beetles. A mature adult can measure up to 1.5 inches long. These beetles feed on dead animals by burying the carcass or rolling it into a ball and taking it elsewhere to be buried.

Males search for food at night and send out pheromones to females. Nothing says a good time like a stinky carcass. Groups of females and males will battle for a carcass and a mating pair will eventually win. Once the pair bury and consume the carcass, they will mate and lay eggs on what remains. One member of the pair will actually remain with the eggs and care for them.

Once upon a time the American Burying Beetle could be found throughout North America but now these generalist are only found in Oklahoma, Rhode Island (Block Island to be exact), Arkansas, and Nebraska. The decline in numbers led it to be listed on the Federal Endangered Species List in 1989. What caused their decline? Habitat loss-with changing use of land the required dead animals for the burying beetles diet disappeared. The other other potential cause is the use of pesticides in farming and gardening.

For every monarch in the sky that is lost due to pesticides there is a burying beetle in the ground who suffers the same fate.

About This Illustration: Micron pens. No they do not normally have heart-shaped spots on them. That was my own design 🙂

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