Nicrophorus americanus
American burying beetle

Key Characteristics

The American burying beetle is a shiny black beetle with two bright orange marks on each elytra (outer wing coverings) and a large orange mark on the pronotum (dorsal plate behind the head). It is the largest (1-1.4 inches, 2.5-3.5 cm) carrion beetle in North America.

Status and Rank

  • State Status: X
  • US Status: LE
  • State Rank: SH
  • Global Rank: G2G3

Occurrences

County NameNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alger11916
Arenac11910
Berrien11908
Kalamazoo21961
Livingston11917
Macomb11934
Marquette11916
Menominee11940
Oakland11934
Washtenaw21917
Distribution map for Nicrophorus americanus

Updated 1/31/2017. Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.

Habitat

The American burying beetle formerly occupied a broad range of habitats, ranging from mature hardwood forests to old field shrubland to grassland. It is not found in sites with soils unsuitable to burying carrion such as those with very loose sand, extremely dry soils, or saturated soils.

Natural Community Types

Methodology

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Feel free to send questions and comments to Brad Slaughter at slaugh14@msu.edu.

Management

Maintain proper habitat in mature forests, upland shrubland, and prairies. Competition for carrion from crows, raccoon, fox, opossum, and skunk is high. Reproduction can be enhanced by providing suitable carrion during peak breeding period and protecting from other scavengers. Reasons for massive (99%) decline are unknown but may be linked to diseases, pathogens, and parasites, the local extirpation of top mammalian predators (allowing other scavengers to flourish) as well the extinction of the passenger pigeon, an ideal-sized carrion.

Active Period

Flight from fourth week of May to second week of September

Breeding from first week of June to fourth week of July

Survey Methods

Place small carrion 50-200 grams in weight (large rats to medium-sized birds such as woodcock or pheasants) on the ground attached to 1 m of dental floss to facilitate locating a buried carcass. The carcass should be checked a few hours after dusk for feeding beetles. Pitfall traps can be easily constructed from quart jars buried in the ground to their rims and baited with aged beef kidney (approx. 20 g) placed in a 4 oz. glass jar with a screen mesh lid. A raised cover of bark or shingles should be placed over the jar to deflect rain. Jars should be spaced 25 m apart in a trap line, and traps should be cleared daily, as early as possible to prevent mortality.

Page Citation

Michigan Natural Features Inventory. 2007. Rare Species Explorer (Web Application). Available online at http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/explorer [Accessed Apr 28, 2017]

References

Survey References

Technical References

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