|Ready for the hole- Click pictures to enlarge|
|Ben and friend|
We formed up in three teams, each headed by a member of the St. Louis Zoo team. Each team would be responsible for 100 beetle pairs, each separately boxed and banded together. Our leader gave out detailed, explicit instructions repeatedly, preventing any mistakes. After all, these are federally endangered species and none of us wanted to end up in the pen! Each step included another of his inspections, like a kinder and gentler drill sergeant without the expletives.
|Hole with quail in side chamber|
Now came the fun- sort of. A ripe quail was placed in each side chamber, being careful that it didn't stick out into the main hole. We had to wear rubber gloves to handle the beetles. Packing in the dead quail ensured that no one complained about wearing the gloves.
|Male and female- separate quarters|
For our burying project the beetles were carefully paired up, making sure that they were from separate families, no cousins or siblings allowed. They were packaged in a pair of separate boxes. They won't meet until the last minute when they get together on the quail.
The highlight was placing the beetles in the hole. After determining that each pair was alive, we put them individually in the hole, herding them into the side chamber with the quail. It is important to be sure that none of the valuable critters escapes for they have work to do.
|Placing the beetles in their chambers, one at a time.|
|Release into the chamber|
Aside from one which, after smelling the quail, was apparently considering becoming a vegetarian, they all scurried into the side chamber without encouragement, never to be seen again. We were told that they might make audible squeaks as they mate, something that can take place almost immediately. Since this was a family venture with pure of heart and mind MDC folks, we didn't watch. What happens in quail chambers, stays in the chambers.
|ABB male climbing over the quail into the chamber, looking for love.|
|Replacing the turf lid|
With three teams, we buried 302 pair of ABB in three separate plots. Now it is up to the beetles. What happens next is described on the St. Louis Zoo website.
"Pairs bury the carrion cooperatively. The female beetle lays her eggs near the preserved carcass. Within four days, the eggs hatch into larvae. Both parents feed their offspring by eating some of the dead flesh and regurgitating it into the larvae's mouths. This goes on for about 6 to 12 days, until the larvae begin their next stage of development, pupation. After 45 to 60 days, the new generation of beetles emerges from the carcass cavity. This process is repeated during the beetles’ one-year life span."
|ABB Larvae- St. Louis Zoo|
The beetles we released have been notched, that is, marked by notching the elytra, the hard, modified forewings that encase the thin hind wings used in flight. The notch distinguishes captive-bred and wild beetles, and beetles are notched based on release location.
|Rectangular notch on right tip|
More information on the project is at the St. Louis Zoo website. A slide show from last year's reintroduction is here.
|Team 2- we happy few Click to enlarge|