Did You Know How the American Burying Beetle Decomposes?

– [Narrator] We all understand
the importance of recycling, and most of us try to remember
to dispose of our waste in the correct way. But did you know that
humans aren’t the only ones who follow the recycling rule? Meet the American burying beetle, one of nature’s most efficient
and fascinating recyclers. I hope you’re ready to hear this one, because it sounds like a
scene from a horror movie. These beetles essentially
recycle dead animal bodies. (dramatic music) Once they have located their target, they work together to bury
the carcass underground. They then remove all the feathers or fur, and coat the remaining carrion
in saliva-like secretions to preserve it, almost like a mummy. Not gross enough for you yet? Well, they then lay their
eggs inside the carcass so the hatchlings have
something to feed on. Recycling at its finest, you could say. While their story may sound a
little gruesome to you and I, the American burying
beetle is a necessary part of our ecosystem. These insects are responsible for recycling decomposing components back into the environment. But unfortunately, their
species is in trouble. They have been disappearing
at an alarming rate. But the keepers and conservationists
from the St. Louis Zoo are lending a helping hand. – [Bob Merz] We are at the
Wah-Kon-Tah Prairie site, which is about four and
a half hours southwest of the St. Louis Zoo, and
we’re trying to reintroduce American burying beetles back to the site, where they once used to live, in the hopes of establishing
a self-sustaining population of these beetles that don’t
need our help anymore. – [Narrator] So, where did
these beetles come from? – Every beetle that we
have released into the wild was raised at the St. Louis Zoo. – [Narrator] Bob isn’t alone on his quest to reintroduce this
incredible little beetle back into the environment. He is joined from the teen
volunteers from Zoo ALIVE. And it’s safe to say they are pretty passionate
about this project. – [John Echele] My favorite
part about working with the American burying beetles,
or as we know them as the ABBs is that I get to release
them into the wild. You have no idea how important it is to me that I’m helping to save an
endangered species in the wild. I mean that’s really cool. And just being here to release them, and seeing them grow and evolve, and just become maybe
more common in the wild, that’s all me. I’m here to help them, and I love it. – [Juliana Stoll] It makes me feel great to be a teen volunteer and
do all this different work. I can say that I’ve held an
endangered species in my hand. We’re digging holes, it’s
not exactly easy work, but it’s super fun. It’s really cool to be able to talk to all the different people who are obviously a little
more experienced in the field, and kind of talk to them
about their experiences, and just get experience. – [Narrator] Thanks to
the incredible work of Bob and his team of passionate
conservationists, together with the US Fish
and Wildlife Service, the Missouri Department of Conservation, and the Nature Conservancy, the American burying beetle
may have a second chance.

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