Mark-recapture population estimates require the use of permanent marks that do not alter the survival or behavior of marked individuals. A number of marks have been developed to monitor populations of the federally endangered American burying beetle, Nicrophorus americanus Olivier. Surveys that employ marks are needed to determine population size and monitor population trends, which are required information to support recovery of this insect. However, studies have revealed problems with mark retention or damage to tested individuals associated with permanent marks. Currently used permanent marking techniques involve making a hole or removing a wedge from an ABB elytron. In this study, we tested the efficacy of elytron branding using a surgical cauterizer. The cauterizer was used to ablate one of the orange maculations on the elytron of four species of Nicrophorus Fabricius. We found that the marking technique was rapid compared with other techniques, permanent, and easily interpreted. American burying beetles are large, which allowed up to two brands to be applied per maculation, leading to the possibility of applying more than 40,000 unique marks to track individuals. Although untested in this study, branding is likely usable for permanent non-disruptive marks of other beetle species with maculation patterns on the elytra.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2