Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2015


Willemssens K.A. (2015). Soil preferences of Nicrophorus beetles and the effects of compaction on burying behavior. Masters Thesis. University of Nebraska - Lincoln.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the supervision of Professor David A. Wedin. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Kelly Ashley Willemssens


The American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus Olivier was declared federally endangered in 1989 and many efforts to prevent this species from going extinct are ongoing. The Nicrophorus beetles bury small carcasses for reproductive purposes. They also reside in the soil during times of daily and seasonal inactivity. To better understand why N. americanus is in decline, the importance of soil texture, moisture, vegetation, gravel, the burial depth, and the effect of compaction on their burying behavior was examined.

All tested species preferred moist soils with N. orbicollis having a significant preference for wet (pN. marginatus had a significant preference for wet, sandy loam soil with vegetation (pN. carolinus had a significant preference for wet, sandy soil with vegetation (pN. americanuspreferred moist sandy loam soil with vegetation and buried to depths of 20 cm.

All species preferred loose over compact soil (p2. My results showed that soil compaction caused by normal off-road vehicles is well below the 3.0 kg/cm2 threshold and it is therefore unlikely to harm buried Nicrophorus beetles, including the endangered N. americanus.

Advisor: David A. Wedin