Subject: Various Carrion Beetles
Location: Barrington, New Hampshire
May 7, 2013 2:38 pm
Been awhile since I sent you anything, but as spring is here and the insects are creeping back out, I thought you might like to see some of the recent fruits of photographing. Today while searching a favorite spot of mine, I came across the carcass of a small animal with no less than three species of Carrion Beetle feeding on it. If I have them correctly identified, it starts with a Margined Carrion Beetle, then a Northern one and finally an American one. This was a great find for me as I had not seen any of them before in the wild, hope you enjoy them too.
Signature: Black Zarak
Dear Black Zarak,
Thank you for this wonderful study in diversity. How exciting to have found all three in the proximity of a single corpse. We wish you had also sent a photo of the group. We agree with your identifications. The first does indeed look like the Margined Carrion Beetle, Oiceoptoma noveboracense, that is pictured on BugGuide which states: “Similar, but smaller than the more common Necrophila americana. In this species the black mark on the pronotum extends to the base. Edges of pronotum tinged with yellow or orange.”
Your second individual does appear to be a Northern Carrion Beetle, Thanatophilus lapponicus, which is also pictured on BugGuide. Interestingly, though BugGuide states the range as: “Throughout Canada, Alaska, and northern part of United States. Southward in western states at higher elevations to southern California, Arizona, New Mexico. Also found in Eurasia,” all the BugGuide reports are from western states. We could not locate any postings of Northern Carrion Beetles in our archives, so we believe this is a first for our site.
The American Carrion Beetle, Necrophila americana, is the one species that is well represented on our site. According to BugGuide: “Diurnal, not found at lights. … Found on carrion and decaying fungi. Larvae eat carrion, larvae of flies and other carrion beetles. Eggs are laid singly on or near carrion. They prefer larger carrion, Milne (5) states ‘rat-sized or larger’. Larvae hatch in a few days, feed in or under carcass, and pupate in a nearby soil cell. Larvae may prefer dried skin, bits of flesh after maggots have departed. Adults overwinter.” We suppose the three species are active in spring in the northern climes when they hunt out animals that have died and frozen over the winter and begin decaying once they have thawed out.
I do actually have a couple pictures of them on the carcass, I’ll attach them to this. You can see the American beetle clearly and the abdomen of the Margined sticking out, but the Northern one was somewhere underneath and came crawling out later. I also got some really nice pictures of Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles chasing each other and mating on the same outing if you’d like to see those.
Thanks for sending the additional photos. We had imagined numerous Carrion Beetles crawling about in the carcass. By all means send the Tiger Beetle photos. Please submit a new form at Ask What’s That Bug?
Whatever they were eating had been a pretty small animal to start with (perhaps a snake or mouse) so really I was surprised that even three beetles had managed to cram in/under it. I sent in the Tiger Beetle photos as well, hope you like them!