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.