American Burying Beetle

Photo by Bob Gress
used by permission


Common Name: American Burying Beetle

Scientific Name: Nicrophorus americanus





Dark Blue = Counties with designated critical habitat
Light Blue = Historical records


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Comments: The American burying beetle belongs to a small group of beetles known to bury small, dead animals. This large, strikingly-colored beetle is nocturnal. It uses its sensitive antennae to detect the odor of a recently dead mouse or bird. If an unmated male locates a carcass, he flies to a nearby perch and releases a pheromone to attract a mate. The mated pair of beetles will move the carcass to a suitable site of loose soil and quickly bury it. Once underground, the feathers or fur are removed and the carcass is anointed with secretions to help preserve it from bacterial decay. Parental care is rare in beetles but these adults remain underground to protect their young and regurgitate food directly to their larval offspring. The American burying beetle was once found in 35 states across the eastern United States. Now it only occupies the eastern and western periphery of its former range. It has been documented in Rhode Island, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas, with reintroductions attempted in Massachusetts and Ohio.