Species At Risk

American Burying Beetle

(Nicrophorus americanus)


Nicrophorus americanus


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.

Action we are taking:

Current Range

Small, isolated populations of this beetle remain in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

Historical Range 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.


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.

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.

Help Make Sure We Don’t Lose More Endangered Species in Ontario

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk. Use our handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre at (http://nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/nhic/species/species_report.cfm). Photographs and location information are always helpful.
  • 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 at 1-800-667-1940.
  • 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.

Did you know?

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.

Did you know?

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.

Did you know?

These beetles are very unusual among insects in that they provide parental care as the young grow by regurgitating food to the begging larvae.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.