Beetle Last Seen in State in 1970s; Zoo Has Monitored for Beetle since 2002
ST. LOUIS, April 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Saint Louis Zoo's Center for American Burying Beetle Conservation; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; the Missouri Department of Conservation; and The Nature Conservancy are reintroducing up to 600 Zoo-bred American burying beetles – for the first time ever in Missouri – beginning in June in locations across the 4,040-acre Wah' Kon-Tah Prairie in Southwest Missouri. In 1989, the American burying beetle became the nation's first insect species ever to be designated as endangered.
The reintroduction site in St. Clair and Cedar counties is jointly owned and managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation and The Nature Conservancy.
For the June reintroduction in Missouri, a special designation was sought from U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which has authority over the nearly 7,000 captive beetles the Zoo has bred since 2005. The waiting period for that designation ended April 23; today the designation is officially approved.
The beetle release process involves digging holes, or plugs, at specially selected sites, placing the carcass of a quail and a pair of notched beetles in each cavity and replacing the plugs. This process simulates a natural underground setting for the beetles' life cycle. The plug sites will then be monitored for signs of breeding activity by checking for larvae, and later, new adult beetles.
"The beetle was last seen in Missouri in the mid-1970s, and for the last decade, the Zoo has been monitoring for existing American burying beetles — with none found," said Saint Louis Zoo Zoological Manager for Invertebrates Bob Merz. Merz is also director of the American burying beetle center that is part of the Zoo's 12-center WildCare Institute dedicated to saving animals across the globe and at home.
The beetles' historic range had included 35 states and three Canadian provinces, but in recent years, populations have been found in only six states.
The reasons for the beetle's decline are still unknown. Scientists have speculated that the loss may be due to pesticides, habitat loss and destruction, competition for carrion, and even light pollution.
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SOURCE St. Louis Zoo