Historic Birch Lodge

Historic Birch Lodge
Historic Birch Lodge, Trout Lake, MI

Saturday, July 14, 2012

American Burying Beetle in Michigan

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American Burying Beetle
Last night I went into our laundry to get some clothes out of the dryer.  When I stepped in I noticed a smell....I thought there must me a dead mouse somewhere, maybe in the barn next door.  Sniffing my way over to the shared wall, I noticed a bright orange and black colored beetle in my laundry box. 

I thought "But it isn't as big"....thinking back to those other beetles I met a couple of years ago.  I called to Bill, and he scooped the guy up with a dustpan, and tossed it outside---by the way, it gave off a very unpleasant odor....like a dead mouse.  I think the odor in the laundry was from this guy!
(Not Bill--the beetle).

So here is the story of my sighting of the American Burying Beetle, (photo above by Ohio Dept of Natural Resources) which is very rare in Michigan.
We were living over at Blush Lake, in the Big Island Lake Wilderness Area southeast of Munising, MI at the time.

 I was walking along  a path cut into the slope along the west side of the lake, when I noticed a rodent carcass.  It was in the spring, and it was a biggish rodent, smaller than a squirrel, but bigger than a mouse, with few identifying markings.   Always curious, I looked closer, and poked at its bushy tail with a stick to move it out of the leaves and get a better look.   Then it happened....the carcass began to MOVE.   The whole darn thing wiggled and tossed, and flipped over on the hillside in the process.  Then I saw two BIG orange and black beetles, I haven't seen anything like them since I worked down in Mexico--where there are lots of big bugs.  Shocked the heck out of me to see anything like this in the north woods.  (Oh, and I am very familiar with many varieties of dung beetles, and that is sure what they weren't. )   Anyway, in a flash they had burrowed into the ground and were gone. 

Fast forward a year, and we picked up a book on endangered species in Michigan.  Paging through it I saw those beetles.   I mentioned them to the folks at the Forest Service, but no one ever followed up.  So I more or less forgot about it until last night.  
Roundneck Sexton Beetle

Certain that I could not see something that rare twice, I looked up orange and black beetles online and learned that there is a similar beetle called the Roundneck Sexton Beetle, nicrophorus orbicollis ( photo from wikipedia by Michael Oliver)  which is smaller.  I a convinced this is what I saw in my laundry.  But now I am even more certain that what I did see at Blush Lake was the American Burying Beetle.  THEY WERE BIG. 

So there is my story and I'm sticking to it.  Perhaps you may think I have a Beetle in my bonnet, but at least I don't have one in my laundry box.....

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