Species: American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus)
Status: Critically Endangered (CR)
Interesting Fact: The American burying beetle buries a whole carcass to feed its young!
The largest carrion beetle in North America, the American burying beetle is an attractive species with bright orange markings. These beetles are named for their specialised mechanism of parental care that involves providing the growing larvae with carrion upon which to feed. At night, beetle pairs will locate a suitable carcass and then cooperate to bury it in the soil, thus protecting their find from competition with other species. Once the carcass is beneath the soil, the beetles strip away the fur or feathers and produce a compact ball; the female then lays her eggs in a chamber created above the carcass. Unusually for insects, the parents both remain to provide for the larvae after they have hatched, regurgitating food for the growing grubs until they are able to feed for themselves. Roughly a week later, the larvae pupate in the soil nearby, having consumed the entire food supply; they will emerge as adults around a month later and overwinter in this stage.
The American burying beetle has disappeared from much of its former range, with one of the major causes of the decline believed to be loss and fragmentation of available habitat. This species is now being monitored, with plans to breed it in captivity and reintroduce it in the future.
Find out more about the American burying beetle from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author