Nebraska LTAP


Date of this Version


Document Type



Hoback, W.W. "Effects of Compaction and Soil Moisture on American Burying Beetles" ( 2016) NE Department of Roads Research Report


SPR-P1(15) M049


Silphid beetles in the genus Nicrophorus bury themselves during periods of inactivity, however, the influence of soil characteristics on burial behavior remains unclear. We examined soil preferences of the federally endangered Nicrophorus americanus, as well as of N. carolinus, N. marginatus, N. obscurus, and N. orbicollis, in a series of experiments. Differences in burial depth by sex were found for N. carolinus, N. marginatus, and N. obscurus, which are diurnal species. Both sexes of N. americanus bury to a mean depth of 18 cm. Soil preferences tested included sand versus sandy loam versus sandy loess, degrees of soil moisture, and soil cover (cut vegetation) versus bare soil. Nicrophorus marginatus preferred moist sandy loam with cut vegetation, N. orbicollis preferred moist sandy loam with cut vegetation, N. carolinus preferred sand with cut vegetation, and N. americanus only had a significant preference for moisture. Regarding the degree of soil moisture, N. americanus and N. orbicollis preferred extremely moist soils (0.4 wfv), N. marginatus did not have a preference, and N. carolinus preferred dry soils (0.02 wfv) over moist soils. Soil preferences during reproductive burials were equivalent to those of non-reproductive burials.