American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus)
(Federally listed as Endangered)
Description: This is a large beetle that is approximately one to 1.5 inches in length. It is predominantly black in color, but has red or reddish-orange markings on its wing covers, pronotum (thorax) and antennae. It is the largest member of the carrion beetle family and it feeds on the carcasses of dead mammals, birds and reptiles.
Habitat: The American Burying Beetles occupy a wide range of habitat types including tallgrass prairie, woodlands and forests. They reproduce in the spring and summer (early May through August). A pair of beetles will find a carcass that is approximately the size of a rat, bury it a few inches below the surface of the ground and lay a small clutch of 10 to 25 eggs on it. Their populations appear to be more limited by the availability of suitable carcasses for reproduction than by habitat loss.
Current and Historic Distribution: Currently, the American Burying Beetle occurs across the eastern third of Oklahoma and has been documented in nearly 30 counties since 1995. Despite its apparently wide range, it is rare in most of the places where it occurs. In addition to Oklahoma, populations exist in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Historically, the American Burying Beetle occurred through the eastern United States from the eastern edge of the Great Plains to the Atlantic Coast.
Reasons for Decline: The reasons for the decline in American Burying Beetles are uncertain. Pesticide use has been speculated as a leading cause. Another potential factor may be a reduction in the abundance of carcasses that are of suitable size for success reproduction.