Development of a Model of American Burying Beetle Occurrence in the Plains Ecoregion of Nebraska

The American burying beetle, (Nicrophorus americanus) is a member of the carrion beetle family Silphidae, an important group of detritivores that recycle decaying materials back into the ecosystem. The American burying beetle is the largest carrion-feeding insect in North America reaching a length of about l.5 inches. Although it has historically been recorded from at least 150 counties in 35 states in the eastern and central United States, it declined throughout its range from the 1920s to the 1960s and is currently only found at the peripheries of its former range. In 1983 the American burying beetle was included as an endangered species in the Invertebrate Red Book published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In the United States, it was placed on the state and federal endangered species lists in August, 1989. The causes for the decline of this species are complex and remain unresolved. However, in order to implement an effective recovery program and to locate additional populations, it is necessary to understand the possible factors influencing this decline and the commonality of features of the remaining populations. Foremost among these are the effects of habitat fragmentation including loss of suitable habitat, isolation of remnant populations, and disturbance of habitats that still contain these beetles. Areas within the known range of American burying beetle that will be disturbed through construction activities require conservation measures to meet federal guidelines. Across the range of American burying beetle, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service no longer advocates "bait-away" measures because of documented effects to beetles. Until 2011, the Service in Nebraska recommended "trap-and-relocate" procedures. Lawsuits from several conservation organizations over moving beetles associated with the Keystone Pipeline Project have caused the Service to consider formal consultation for projects, rather than to allow trap-and-relocate procedures. Data from 2012 and 2013 support the use of trap-and-relocate; however, to implement this procedure, formal consultation will be required and persons moving beetles will need federal permits. If methods to reduce habitat suitability without harming beetles can be developed, construction projects may be possible without the need to trap-and-relocate beetles. An alternative to trap-and-relocate is to determine the number of American burying beetles in an area and calculate the likelihood of take based on the number of acres to be disturbed. Discountable take is invoked when there is a less than one percent chance of killing a beetle during habitat disturbance. The proposed research project will directly benefit the Nebraska Department of Roads by providing data on distribution of American burying beetles, likely reducing the total area where conservation measures are required. Second, by testing the appropriateness of calculating discountable take road projects especially in areas with low occurrence of American burying beetle should be expedited. By reducing the range where American burying beetle are likely to occur and by investigating discountable take, formal consultation that is very time consuming can be avoided. The results of this project will affect projects in 16 Nebraska Counties covering an area of nearly one third of Nebraska. The model developed through this project will be implemented by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to determine areas of Nebraska where conservation measures for American burying beetle are required.


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Funding: $74148.00
    • Contract Numbers:

      SPR-P1(15) M031

    • Sponsor Organizations:

      Federal Highway Administration

      1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
      Washington, DC  United States  20590

      Nebraska Department of Roads

      P.O. Box 94759
      Highway Building
      Lincoln, NE  United States  68509-4759
    • Performing Organizations:

      University of Nebraska, Lincoln

      527 Nebraska Hall
      Lincoln, NE  United States  68588-0529
    • Principal Investigators:

      Wedin, David

      Hoback, Wyatt

    • Start Date: 20140615
    • Expected Completion Date: 0
    • Actual Completion Date: 20151215
    • Source Data: RiP Project 36248

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01560302
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: Nebraska Department of Roads
    • Contract Numbers: SPR-P1(15) M031
    • Files: RiP, STATEDOT
    • Created Date: Apr 11 2015 1:00AM