American burying beetle
Scientific name: Nicrophorus americanus
“Extirpated” means the species lives somewhere in the world, and at one time lived in the wild in Ontario, but no longer lives in the wild in Ontario.
Date added to the Species at Risk in Ontario List
January 24, 2013
Read the assessment report.
What it looks like
The American burying beetle is a large black beetle, about 25 to 35 millimetres long. It has distinctive orange markings on its wing covers and face. These beetles are scavengers, feeding on carrion (dead animals). These beetles typically live for a year. Newly emerged adults remain in the soil during the winter and mate in the summer. Adults die after raising their offspring.
Where it lives
American burying beetles prefer undisturbed deciduous forest, but have been found in many kinds of habitat. They seem to have three requirements – soil in which they can dig a chamber for their eggs and larvae, enough carcasses for food, and few enough competitors for these carcasses.
Where it’s been found in Ontario
This beetle was once found north of lakes Erie and Ontario from Windsor to Toronto. It has not been seen in Ontario since 1972, despite extensive surveys.
Small, isolated populations of this beetle remain in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
Why it disappeared from Ontario
Threats to this beetle are not known, but probably include habitat alteration, the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon (which provided abundant carrion), attraction to artificial lights and becoming road kill. They likely faced being eaten by raccoons, dogs and cats, and competing with these animals for food.
Action we are taking
Extirpated species and their habitat are protected if the species are again found in Ontario.
Help make sure we don’t lose more Endangered Species in Ontario
- Private landowners have an important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats. For more information visit Ontario.ca/speciesatrisk or contact the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at
- Volunteer with your local nature club, stewardship council or provincial park to participate in stewardship projects aimed at protecting and restoring at-risk species. Find out more at www.ontariostewardship.org.
- Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to
- American burying beetles are the largest carrion feeding insects in North America. These beetles have highly sensitive organs on their antennae that can detect the smell of decaying flesh three kilometres away.
- The beetles can bury a carcass the size of a mouse in one night by tunnelling under it and creating a cavity into which it falls.
- These beetles are very unusual among insects in that they provide parental care as the young grow by regurgitating food to the begging larvae.