Thanks for the hard work you put in to your wonderful site! My sweetie and I have been exploring a meadow in central mass -part of an audubon refuge- and have become quite fascinated with the monarch butterflies and their exploding population. Over the past few months we’ve spent a lot of time there and we’ve been working on witnessing every stage of their amazing transformation. I have a terrible attention span, however, and at one point I wandered away from the shiny chrysalis I’d been staring at and got surprised by this bug buzzing around in the tall grass. I managed to snap a few pictures of it before it flew away, but I think this was one of the creepier bug-spectacles I’ve seen yet. Please tell us whether it’s a mom offering her offspring a ride or a swarm of parasitical mites!
Andrew, Arlington Mass.
This is neither. It is a beetle giving a ride to some Mites, a phenomenom known as Phoresy. We often get photos of Mites using Burying Beetles for transportation to a fresh carcass. This looks more like a Flower Scarab Beetle, but we will see if Eric Eaton can provide further insight. Eric quickly wrote back: “Had me fooled for a moment, too, but it IS a burying beetle, specifically Nicrophorus tomentosus, named for the yellow tomentum (fuzz) on its thorax. Eric”