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Category — American Burying Beetle

Meet Insectarium Keeper Mandy Pritchard

Contributors: April Pitman, Wendy Rice, and Jenna Wingate

Mandy Pritchard works as a keeper at World of the Insect, also called the Insectarium. Mandy has a solid entomology background and she is very knowledgeable of the biology and taxonomy of a variety of different species of insects. As a keeper, Mandy is in charge of maintaining and breeding 15 species. Most of her species require fresh plant cuttings, so you will see her out in the park every day (rain, shine or snow) looking for the best plants for her cultures.

According to her colleagues, Mandy is an awesome coworker. She helps train volunteers and new hires, and whenever her coworkers go to her with questions, she is always open and willing to help. Mandy is very easy to get along with and is one of the reasons the Insectarium is such a team-oriented and cohesive department.

Mandy Pritchard introducing American Burying Beetles

Mandy Pritchard introducing American Burying Beetles

Additionally, Mandy is an awesome representation of the zookeeping profession because of her passion for conservation. She goes above and beyond her job as a keeper. Currently, she is in charge of the American Burying Beetle reintroduction program at the Zoo. She successfully collaborates with other agencies outside the Zoo (Ohio Fish and Wildlife, Fernald Preserve, and more) to work towards a lasting conservation solution. The program itself is requires much diligence and hard work. Mandy is in charge of organizing dates for the release, helping to staff the release, raising the beetles, setting traps to survey the area before and after the release, and much more.

One of the most important things keepers do is educate the public on conservation and Mandy does a great job of that. Sharing her passion with the public comes naturally to Mandy. She just recently gave a talk at the Fernald Preserve (where the beetles are released) to help educate the public on the importance of this species. It is not the easiest thing to show people why this beetle should be saved. Most people just see it as another bug! But Mandy does a great job of enlightening everyone, keeping the audience interested and even getting a few laughs, too! Mandy has the ability to make people care about something they never thought they would. Keep it up, Mandy!

 

July 24, 2014   No Comments

American Burying Beetle Release – Round Two

On July 1st, 2014 the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden released over 100 critically-endangered American Burying Beetles (ABB for short) at the Fernald Nature Preserve. This was the second of at least five years of releases planned at the preserve. As you might have read in previous blog posts I have been working closely with Fernald and the USFWS for the past four years to ensure that this species has an opportunity to make a comeback. This six-legged beauty has a very bazaar yet important role as a decomposer. Pairs of ABBs raise their young on the carcasses of small mammals and birds that they literally bury. While this might sound gross, these beetles and other decomposers are vital to the health of the ecosystem. Animals like these act like nature’s garbage men, removing and re-using things that no one else wants to deal with.

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

ABB being released at the Fernald Nature Preserve

When the beetles were released last week they were provided with rat carcasses and methodically placed in the ground to breed. The release sites were carefully marked and protected from scavengers with layers of fencing. Next week we will return to check on the success of this year’s release by digging up about 20% of the carcasses. We will count any larvae and place them back in the soil to finish out their life cycle which will take about two more months.

ABB release site at Fernald

ABB release site at Fernald

This fall I will perform a post-release survey to check for any new adult ABBs at the preserve. The survey consists of setting and baiting pit-fall traps around the preserve that attract and trap live ABBs and other related beetles. So what exactly do you bait these traps with? I’m glad you asked! Inside each of these traps we place a container of steamy, foamy, week old, rotten chicken!

Yum

Yum

I assumed this aspect of the job would be pretty unpleasant when I signed up for it, but WOW did I underestimate the lingering, ghastly stench of rotten poultry. It works like a charm though. Within minutes these traps attract all sorts of carrion beetles. If ABBs are in the area, this level of stink will certainly attract them.

Inside a pitfall trap at Fernald

ABB relatives inside a pitfall trap at Fernald

ABBs are capable of flying over two miles a night, and Fernald is roughly one square mile. Our survey efforts are limited to the preserve; therefore it can be hard to gauge the overall success of these reintroductions. While we have not yet recaptured any ABBs at Fernald, other reintroductions in the US have yielded positive results, so we remain hopeful. I truly believe that efforts by the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and other involved institutions will have a positive impact on this species’ general population status.

Staff and volunteers at the American Burying Beetle release.

Thanks to everyone involved with this year’s American Burying Beetle release!

July 11, 2014   1 Comment

Here We Go Again!

In May 2013 the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden released 240 critically endangered American burying beetles (ABBs) at the nearby Fernald Nature Preserve. Thanks to careful planning on behalf of Zoo, the Fernald staff, and volunteers, the release went smoothly. We had several successful broods when we went back to check on them a couple weeks later. You can read all about that here.

The Cincinnati Zoo is excited to announce that it is planning on doing another release this year! In early July staff will be releasing another group of ABBs at Fernald. This will be the second of at least five years of releases planned at this location. This species only occurs in about 10% of its historic range. Our hope is that methodic reintroductions like what we hold at Fernald will have a positive impact on the overall habitat range of this animal.

That's one of the ABBs we released.

That’s one of the ABBs we released!

On June 21st 2014 from 10:00am-12:00pm, at the Fernald Preserve visitors center, I will be giving a presentation all about this beetle’s life cycle and its recovery program. This is free, open to the public, and you’re all invited! Please join us for what’s sure to be an interesting look at a very unique animal’s life cycle. The first part of this presentation will take place in the community meeting room, after which we will take a short hike out into the field where we will check a pitfall trap and talk more about this beetle’s natural history. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the beetle or the reintroductions. Hope to see you there!

American Burying Beetles

June 6, 2014   1 Comment