Subject: Orange and Black beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Alameda Creek Trail, Union City, California
Time: 02:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi, Bugman.
Found this beetle clinging to a dried out bush. Went to photograph the insect and it fell to the ground and laid on its back. With a small twig, I turned it over several times, but the beetle insisted to roll on its back and play dead. What is this bug?
How you want your letter signed: John
This is a Sexton Beetle or Burying Beetle in the genus Nicrophorus. Sexton Beetles locate small dead animals, including mice, voles, birds, lizards and many others, and they bury them after laying eggs. They sometimes guard the eggs and care for the young that feed on both the putrifying flesh and the other insects attracted to rotting flesh, including maggots. Because of the red tips on the antennae and your location, our best species guess is the Yellow Bellied Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus guttala, which is pictured on BugGuide.
This is NOT the highly endangered American Burying Beetle which can be identified by its orange or red thorax. See BugGuide for additional information on the American Burying Beetle. Your individual is a member of the same genus, but it is not endangered.