Is your project in American burying beetle (ABB) range?

ABBs are found in parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas.  There are experimental populations in Missouri and Ohio.  Island populations exist off Rhode Island and Massachusetts. 

Have you considered the timing of surveys to maximize your construction schedule?

Presence/Absence survey protocols vary between states.  This also includes the timing when presence/absence surveys can occur and the duration that survey results are valid.  Survey length varies from 3-5 days depending upon the state.  There are also weather requirements that must be met for surveys to be valid.  These vary with state.  Survey protocols for the Midwest range are summarized in the table provided.

Do you have a surveyor?

Presence/absence surveys can only be completed by biologists that have the federally issued permit and appropriate state permits.  Consult with USFWS to get a list of possible surveyors for your area.  We don’t grow on trees so it is best to get your project on the schedule.

Have you evaluated your project area?

Not all habitats are favorable for ABBs.  The USFWS has identified habitat characteristics that are unfavorable for ABBs.  If your project is 100% unfavorable, then presence/absence surveys may not be necessary.  For example, ABBs don’t like monoculture.  If you are planning a project in a corn field then you probably are not going to have an ABB issue and surveys may not be required.  A desktop survey with ground truthing can help you identify favorable habitats.  This can help you reduce the number of traps needed for the survey which saves time and money. 

Have you considered trap location?

Traps are baited with rotten chicken gizzards and/or dead rats.  The smell permeates through the air and attracts ABBs and other carrion beetles.  Traps must be placed no more than 1 mile from each other.  That means that each trap has a functional survey radius of ½ mile.  Use this information carefully when planning trap locations.   ABBs do not recognize your project boundaries so if you place a trap at the edge of your project you risk attracting ABBs to your site from adjoining areas.  Place traps to maximize the coverage of ground disturbance proposed for your project.  Then consider the boundary issue mentioned earlier.  

What if your survey is negative?

If your survey is negative, then you are usually clear to construct until the beginning of the next ABB active period (1 year or less!).  This varies with state.

What if your survey is positive?

If your survey is positive then you need to continue to work with the USFWS.  You do have options.  For one, avoid favorable habitat.  If your project is large, like a wind farm, and ABBs were only found in one trap, then you could move forward with construction in areas where ABBs were absence (negative trap results).  Remember that each trap has a ½ mile functional survey radius so any favorable habitat within ABB occupied area should be avoided.  Mitigation options are also available.  These vary with state so contact the USFWS.  Mitigation banks do exist in Oklahoma.