Midwest Region - Ohio Ecological Services Office Conserving the nature of America

Reintroducing the American Burying Beetle


Captive-bred American burying beetles (Nicrophorus americanus) were released on the Wayne National Forest in southeast Ohio. The American burying beetle is an endangered species that began its reintroduction back into Ohio in 1998. The first beetles reintroduced into Ohio came from healthy populations in Arkansas. But since 2002, The Ohio State University has maintained a captive breeding colony for release of beetles within the state. In 2007, The Wilds became Ohio's second American burying beetle captive propagation facility.

The last American burying beetle reported in Ohio was in 1974. Reasons for the decline of this largest of the carrion beetles are unclear, but may include increased competition from scavenging predators. Reintroduction of the American burying beetle into Ohio involves carefully planned match making skills. Before leaving the comforts of their captive breeding facility, George Keeney an entomologist at OSU, places one female and one male beetle in a plastic container to "get to know each other". Once at the wildlife area, volunteers and FWS biologists, prepared the site for the beetles' release.

American burying beetles form a brood chamber and prepare carrion for use by their offspring. Burying beetles are one of the only species of insects that display a high level of parental care, with both males and females tending the larvae. Two weeks after the reintroduction, we returned to the site to estimate our success rate. We found an average of 9.6 larvae per site, which resulted in a brooding success rate of 76%! This is an excellent result, as wild caught and released beetles only averaged a 40% brood success rate. It appears that captive rearing may be a highly effective recovery technique for this species in Ohio. Further monitoring through post release trapping will indicate how successful the beetles emerged into adulthood.