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Category — Invertebrates

Beetle Mania!

Here at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden we are gearing up for our first ever American burying beetle (ABB) reintroduction! Over the past year my wonderful volunteers, coworkers and I have raised an army of these federally endangered beauties to release at the nearby Fernald Preserve. The date is set, and the beetles are ready to go. On the 13th of May we will set free over 200 ABBs!

Each container holds an individual beetle ready for release.

American Burying Beetle rearing room. Each container holds an individual beetle ready for reintroduction.

It is wonderfully poetic that an endangered species is to be released at such a rehabilitated location. The Fernald Preserve was born through environmental remediation. It is the product of a super fund ($4.4 billion) clean-up, managed by the US Department of Energy and opened in 2006. It was formerly the Feed Materials Production Center, which ceased operations in 1989. Fernald is now home to gorgeous upland and riparian forests, prairies, savannahs, and wetlands. It now provides habitats for over 200 species of birds, 30 species of mammals, 28 species of reptiles and amphibians, 19 species of fish and immeasurable numbers of invertebrates.

Fernald Preserve near the reintroduction location.

Fernald Preserve near the reintroduction location.

As I talked about in my previous blog, ABBs have a strange but important role in our environment. Each pair of beetles released will be placed in the ground with some carrion upon which they will raise their larvae. I’ll return to Fernald two weeks after the release to check on the breeding success. Two months later hundreds of brand new wild-born ABBs will emerge from the ground ready to play their part in the ecosystem as decomposers.

May 9, 2013   No Comments

American Burying Beetles

The American burying beetle (ABB) was listed as a federally endangered species in 1989. It was once found across 35 different states and 3 provinces, but is now only known to occur in just 10% of that range. The precise reason for the beetles’ decline is unknown. It is likely a concoction of changes in the past century that has ultimately led to such low wild populations. Such things as habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, pesticide use, light pollution, increases in populations of scavengers, and even the extinction of the passenger pigeon have all contributed in some way to the beetle’s current status.

American Burying Beetles preparing carrion.

The ABB belongs to a family of beetles called Silphidae. The ABB and other silphids rely upon the carcasses of vertebrates to thrive and reproduce. The ABB requires carrion around the size of a rat or pigeon to reproduce. An ABB can “smell” a carcass from up to two miles away! Once a male and female have fought off other invertebrate competitors they will literally bury the carcass overnight. Amazingly, these beetles can handle carcasses up to 200 hundred times their size in a matter of hours. [Read more →]

February 8, 2013   2 Comments

Where in the Zoo? World of the Insect!

So where in the Zoo was this photo taken?

Painted pattern

In the World of the Insect building, of course!

Did you know that we were the first zoo to devote an entire exhibit building to insects? World of the Insect opened back in 1978 and was honored with an Association of Zoos & Aquarium Exhibit Award. Showcasing a variety of six-legged species from bullet ants to taxicab beetles, the exhibit aims to foster an appreciation and respect for these amazing creatures. [Read more →]

February 16, 2012   No Comments