Oklahoma is More than OK for Burying Beetles
By Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker (The Bug Chicks)
Last September, we drove across America filming arthropods for our new web series, The Bug Chicks: Sofa Safari. We visited ten locations across the country, spanning a wide range in habitats, ecosystems, and climates. Before we left, we predicted which stops would have the best filming opportunities: Tucson, the Oregon coast, and our old stomping grounds near Texas A&M were bound to be great.
They did not disappoint. However, one stop we made near Bartlesville in northeastern Oklahoma blew us away. As we drove north from Texas, we didn’t really know what to expect. Northeastern Oklahoma had been in the clutches of a month-long dry spell after a very hot summer, so we resigned ourselves to slim pickings. But Oklahoma was sly. Our first day there it rained non-stop, and then the place came alive. It was an entomologist’s dreamland.
The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) is a critically endangered carrion beetle whose range extends through a few counties in the eastern part of the state. We were meeting up with Stephanie Rainwater and Andy Middick, licensed American burying beetle census biologists, and Anita Barstow, a biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who manages these endangered beetles. After checking many traps with no luck, we stumbled upon a giant female in the last trap of the day.
We could have filmed our entire show in Oklahoma! It was such a pleasant surprise, and the experience renewed our energy for the second half of the trip across the country.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Entomological Society of America for their sponsorship of our new series, and Peter Blanchard for his amazing photographs. To check out more of his work, click here to visit his website.
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Kristie Reddick and Jessica Honaker are The Bug Chicks. Both hold master’s degrees in entomology from Texas A&M University, and their mission is to change the way people think about insects. Kristie’s research focuses on the biology, biodiversity, and distribution of solifuge arachnids in Kenya. As a Bug Chick, she is dedicated to showing young girls and boys that women can be smart, silly, successful, brave, and beautiful in many different ways. Jessica is a professional science illustrator and lecturer whose research focuses on integrated pest management and the effect of honeydew production by black-margined aphids in pecan agro-ecosystems. As a Bug Chick, she is passionate about promoting women as scientists and positive media role models. Follow them on Facebook or on Twitter at @TheBugChicks.