Rare beetle making a comeback in Ohio after 45 years

Local News

Until now, the American burying beetle has been found in four states, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website.

Andrea Malek, a wildlife researcher at The Wilds in Muskingum County, recently discovered the federal endangered species in the conservation park, confirming for the first time that the beetles had survived Ohio winters. The beetles were reintroduced into nature several years ago.

The last known American burying beetle living in Ohio was in 1974.

The insect has a distinctive orange neck and a black body, with orange-red wings, and is on average one-and-a-half inches long.

The rare beetle was found feeding on the carcass of dead rat in Malek’s makeshift trap, which does not sound very appetizing, unless you have committed years of research to the rare insect. In total, she has found three specimens — the first on May 19.

“The American burying beetle gets its name from that they bury small animal carcasses and then their larvae feed on that (after emerging as adults),” said MaLisa Spring, an entomologist at the Museum of Biodiversity at Ohio State University.

Entomologist Andrew Mularo, who also works at the museum, added that the beetle will “bury it underground and help with the decomposition process (through the excretion of digestive enzymes), so they’re very good for the ecosystem.” 

Ohio State University scientists began breeding the elusive insect in 2002 in the laboratory, before forwarding the project to The Wilds in Muskingum County in 2007, a conservation park that is part of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Click here to read more about the reintroduction of the beetle.

The Wayne National Forest has a photo gallery of the reintroduction from 2011 here.

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