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Overwintering biology and tests of trap and relocate as a conservation measure for burying beetles.
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  • Abstract:
    Burying beetles are carrion beetles and utilize dead animal carcasses for feeding

    and reproductive efforts. They assist with decomposition, prevent the spread of disease,

    and reduce the number of pest species. The largest species of carrion beetle, the

    American burying beetle, is a federally endangered insect and its distribution has been

    reduced by 90%. The conservation of this species is important in maintaining a healthy

    ecosystem. Overwintering biology and trap and relocation were studied to determine how

    this beetle survives freezing temperatures and to find whether trap and relocation could

    be a suitable conservation management measure.

    Trap and relocation is a technique often used to relocate organisms from an area

    where human and animal habitats overlap. In this study, we test the efficacy of a trap-

    relocate technique with a surrogate species of burying beetle, Nicrophorus marginatus, to

    determine the implications of this technique on the conservation management of the

    federally endangered American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus. Baited pitfall

    traps were used for capture, and the comparison of percent recaptures at different trap

    sites (control, source, and destination) was used to determine the effects of relocating beetles. The results showed that percent recaptures were lower for the beetles relocated to

    the new location; however, there was no statistical difference between trap sites. Trap and

    relocation, in circumstances where there is substantial threat to the American burying

    beetle’s habitat, should be considered for conserving this species.

    Insects are poikilotherms and have evolved strategies to survive freezing

    temperatures through changes in behavior and physiology. Overwintering insects either

    utilize a freeze tolerant or freeze avoidant strategy. Freeze avoidant insects cannot

    withstand their cellular fluids freezing solid, while freeze tolerant insects can survive this.

    Burying beetles from their northern range in Nebraska were put in a simulated, natural

    environment to determine whether they are freeze avoidant or freeze tolerant. The results

    showed that there was a strong relationship between beetle depth and temperature.

    Beetles from the northern range buried at or below the frost line to survive freezing

    temperatures. This could have further implications in the conservation of the American

    burying beetle if there are differences between the overwintering behavior of northern

    and southern range beetles.

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