What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What is this flying black bug with orange spots?
August 10, 2009
I’ve never seen a bug quite like this one, it flew into my house, and ended up landing on a washcloth, where I was able to get a picture. It was covered in tiny spiders so as soon as I got the picture I put the bug and the washcloth outside, but I’m still curious as to what it was exactly. It was 1-2 inches long, definitely had wings and three pairs of legs. Its antennae and legs were furry.
Enumclaw, Washington

Sexton Beetle with Phoretic Mites

Sexton Beetle with Phoretic Mites

This is a Burying Beetle or Sexton Beetle in the genus Nicrophorus, but we cannot tell you the exact species.  None of the examples posted to BugGuide illustrate four distinct red spots in a row across the elytra or wing covers.  The Burying Beetle was transporting Mites, not spiders.  The Mites use the Burying Beetle to travel from location to location, a phenomenon known as phoresy, in order to take advantage of flight to access a new food source.  Burying Beetles will bury small dead creatures like birds or mice and lay eggs on the carcass.  The young feed on the rotting flesh.  The Mites feed on fly eggs and maggots, so phoresy is mutually advantageous to the Mites and the Burying Beetles.  The Mites get a food source and the Burying Beetle benefits because more rotting flesh is available to its progeny.  We will see if Eric Eaton can assist us in an exact species identification.

Update from Eric Eaton
I’m pretty sure this is just a variation of the sexton beetle Nicrophorus defodiens.  It is highly variable in its markings, as evidenced by the individual specimens in the image gallery here:
I know I have seen very similar specimens from northwest Oregon, too.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

24 Responses to Burying Beetle with Mites

  1. Hugo says:

    After seeing this 1 1/4 in. beast, my son was afraid to let the dog out, here in No. Reading, MA. We went down together and got a picture of it, complete with mites. We thought they might be young-uns. Very quick & active mites. Seen at 10:00 pm clinging to the porch lattice.
    I’ll try to find out their habitat range.

  2. Brad Whitewood says:

    What’s up with the mites? They gonna infest my house ? I live in Stellarton Nova Scotia, Canada. One justvflew in my house not 12 minutes ago. I never seen one in my 38 years in the town. Little skeptical as to let it go or not.. These mites hitch in a ride gonna crawl in my kids ears n shit? Just curious as I can’t deal with something eatin inside my kids head. Any thoughts would ease my mind a little hopefully

    • bugman says:

      The mites that travel phoretically on Burying Beetles are not connected to mites that infest people and animals, so you can ease your mind.

  3. Gayle says:

    So glad to read the post above. We live in a forrest in central california. We know when we see them that somethings dead nearby. Tonight was the first time we saw the mites and like the poster above, I was freaked out. They’re hard to kill. We finally started using an electrical bug zapper which works well because the shell is seriously tough. We’be had one in the house every night for the last three nights. Are they nocturnal?

  4. Vicki says:

    Saw my first two in south-western WI, last night.

  5. Marion White says:

    I live in Staffordshire England and had one of these beetles in my loft last night making lots of noise at 3am.We caught it by unscrewing a ceiling light where it was trying to get out of.Is it likely that there will be more up there and what do we do if they are breading?

  6. Mary says:

    My daughter found one in a pan that was laying in her yard. We think the wind blew it ? over from the neighbors who have chickens and aren’t really careful about carcasses. I’ve lived here 30 years never seen one before. We live in Wasilla Alaska.

    • Cacy says:

      Just came across this post, I live in wasilla as well and it’s a long shot giving the year of your post but I just found one in my kitchen sink, thinking it came threw our kitchen window, iv never seen one of these beetles with mites on it before in Alaska!

      • Becky says:

        Hi, I see the date. I live in Eagle River Alaska and just found one in my yard. I’ve lived here 25 years and have not seen one. At least it was outside in my yard, but it is covered in mites. Yuck.

  7. Jacquie says:

    I live in Halifax England. I found a dead mouse on my lawn and when I moved it , there were two of them under it . I couldn’t believe how fast they burrowed back into the ground. Iv never seen one before . Didn’t have time to take a picture they were gone in a blink of an eye.

  8. Aileen McKenzie says:

    Just found 5 of these beetles on my remote to my garage this morning at 10:30 a.m. Very slow moving.
    Never seen them before Newcastle Ontario Canada.

  9. Brandy Pender says:

    Saw one in my carport. Do they spray or just taste nasty, he gave my dogs a fit, causing them to drool excessively.

  10. Sandy says:

    July 26, 2017 My husband woke in the middle of the night said something bit him, we found one of these on the sheet. Had to step on it, I picked it up and saw the mites. Haven’t been able to go back to sleep so I thought I would look up what kind of bug it was. Thank you for the info.

  11. Dan says:

    Found one of these monsters in the basement of my house, though it had no mites on it. Flattened it with a huge book before I went to check on here what it was (opps). I am in Alberta… So I don’t know how it even got here since I can’t seem to find Alberta anywhere on where they should be.

  12. Val says:

    My son found one on our deck and fed it to his bearded dragon. The lizard seemed to enjoy it. We reside in Cocagne, NB. First time that we have seen this colouring on a beetle.

  13. Janine says:

    Hi I’m from South Wales UK Just had on in my bathroom but sorry guys I freaked out and squashed it my husband ain’t to happy though now I feel guilty because of how sweet it sounded before my shoe hit it 🙁

  14. Sarah says:

    I have seen 12 of these flying around in my house today! 1 every 30 to 60 minutes. Did not know I shouldn’t have squashed them but I actually catch some and release them outside. How do I get rid of them?! I live in Ontario in a port town on Lake Erie. I didn’t think they were supposed to be here!

    • bugman says:

      Based on BugGuide data, Burying Beetles are found throughout North America. Finding them in your house might indicate a nearby dead animal.

      • Sarah Sclafani says:

        From Thursday to Monday I saw over 50 in my house! We had to call someone to come in and take care of it as they were coming up from our basement into our house. From the smell, there was definitely something that had died in a crawl space or something. It turned out to be a Tomentose Burying Beetle. As fascinating as they were it had become a big problem.

        • ffelix says:

          You’d have been better off saving the money you spent on the exterminator, then finding and dealing the carcass that was drawing the beetles in.

  15. Paul Johnson says:

    Found one of these in our dog kennels this morning in County Durham, UK. It seemed quite lethargic, captured and released in the woods. Please don’t tell me I need to worry about mites transferring to my dogs ?

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