Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
First Endangered Species to be brought back to Missouri!
Midwest Region, August 22, 2011
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American Burying Beetle adults on a bird carcass.
American Burying Beetle adults on a bird carcass. - Photo Credit: St. Louis Zoo

During the mid to late 1900s, Missouri, like 35 other states, was still home to the largest carrion beetle in North America- the American burying beetle. For reasons still unknown, the species then began to decline rapidly, shrinking its known range to a handful of states in the Midwest and an island on the east coast, with no beetles in between. The last documented sighting in Missouri occurred in the early 1970s in the southwest corner of the state. The Missouri Field office of the US Fish & Wildlife Service has now been given the green light to reintroduce these animals back into our state as a “non-essential experimental population”. This designation will allow local landowners to conduct their activities as before, without fear of any additional regulation.

The American burying beetle has some fascinating traits: Overnight, a pair of beetles can pluck, de-beak, and bury a quail roughly a foot underground, and coat the carcass with preservative secretions (that may have medicinal applications). The beetle has formed a mutualistic relationship with mites that it transports to carcasses, and the mites in turn jump off and eat the competing fly eggs and maggots. After the beetle eggs hatch, the beetles display parental care, with adults feeding grubs regurgitated food in response to their calls and their stroking of the adult’s mouthparts.

The draft rule designating the experimental population was received favorably during the recent public meeting and during the public comment period. The final rule is currently in the process of being published. We are planning to reintroduce the beetle in the spring- this will be the first time an endangered species has been brought back to Missouri!

Contact Info: Scott Hamilton, 573 234-2132 x 122, scott_hamilton@fws.gov
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