|USFWS photo of American Burying Beetle|
The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) (ABB) originally was present in 35 states. Now it is only found in seven states and efforts are underway in several states to restore it to its native habitat. The St. Louis Zoo's Center for American Burying Beetle Conservation has a breeding program and is actively involved in restoration efforts with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Master Naturalists were invited to join the work day at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie just north of Eldorado Springs.
The burying or sexton beetles, genus Nicrophorus, are a colorful group, shiny black with bright orange spots in patterns which identify the species. Our ABB, N. americanus is distinguished from the other burying beetles by coloration and size. It is the only one with an orange spot on the upper surface of its pronotum (first segment of the thorax). It is also considerably larger that the other common burying beetles.
|N. Orbicollis - Note black pronotum|
The burying beetles are one of only a few groups of insects that personally nurture their young, feeding them much like a bird does. In their case, a vulture might be a more appropriate model, as they eat a dead mammal or bird, then regurgitate it into the mouths of their emerging larvae. Before a pair can mate they must first find a dead animal, flying up to two miles while sniffing the air with their antennae. Just like Goldilocks, it has to be just the right size. Too big and they can't move and bury it, too small and they will run out of food.
|Mighty mites- Aussie Botanist|
|Click to enlarge|
Details on the ABB release program are in this St. Louis Zoo PDF