American Burying Beetles have a distinctive coloring: black with red markings on the forewings.
The American Burying Beetle bury the carcasses of small vertebrates such as birds and rodents as a food source for their larvae. Unlike most other insects, both the male and female parents take care of the brood. They are carnivores.
Information & Facts:
The American Burying Beetle is the largest species of the genus ‘Nicrophorus’. It can grow to a length of 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters). It has a black body with two protective wing covers.
The smooth protective wing covers (elytra) meet in the middle of the back and have two dark orange-red scalloped shaped marks on each cover. The most distinct feature of the American burying beetle is the dark orange marking on the raised portion of its circular exoskeletal back plate (pronotum) of the prothorax (first segment of the body that holds the first pair of legs).
American burying beetles also have an easily seen antenna with expanded orange tips.
American Burying Beetles are scavengers – they feed on dead carcasses.
American burying beetles appear out of the ground when the temperature is above 60°F (15°C) to begin breeding.
Potential breeding pairs meet at a carcass to begin mating. If the male arrives at the carcass and no female arrives, he will release pheromones (airborne sex attractant chemicals) to attract a female. Once a female arrives, the pair will move the carcass and bury it under a couple of inches of soil, and remove the carcass’ hair or feathers and form it into a ball.
American burying beetles breed once in their lifetime, which occurs in June or July. After mating, the female digs out a chamber near the carcass where she lays 10-30 eggs. The parents preserve the carcass by lathering it with special secretions, and regurgitate meat from it to their young until the young are able to feed themselves. Sexual maturity is reached at 48-68 days old.
The specific habitat for the burying beetle is not known, but they may prefer old-hickory forests and grass lands. Dead carcasses are the key for the survival of the species, so the availability of carcasses might determine its distribution.
There are historic records for the American Burying Beetle across most of the U.S. east of the Rockies, but it has been confirmed only in South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. The one, undated record for the species in Florida was from Marion County