American Carrion Beetles: Eating and Mating

Cluster of mating black and yellow bugs in Delaware
Mon, May 11, 2009 at 1:55 PM
I stumbled upon this mass of mating beetles (maybe they aren’t beetles) inside and on top of a rotting snake at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. Just curious as to what they are since I’ve never seen them before.
D. Fiero

Carrion Beetles
Carrion Beetles

Dear D.,
While it is difficult for us to ascertain from your photograph that mating is occurring, it is very obvious that a group of American Carrion Beetles, Necrophila americana, is feasting on the dead snake.  We will trust your powers of observation in the matter. Insects might be the original multi-taskers.  While multi-tasking might not be terribly efficient for humans in the computer age as evidenced by the documented numbers of automobile accidents that have occurred during cellular telephone calls and texting, trying to compete more than one task at a time is here to stay.  Getting back to the American Carrion Beetles, the rotting snake will also provide a food source for larval beetles, so mating while feeding would be a logical behavior.  According to BugGuide, the American Carrion Beetle’s habitat is “marshy and forested areas.”  BugGuide also indicates:  “Adults consume fly larvae (maggots) at carrion, as well as some carrion,” which would be a good way to ensure that there is more food for the developing beetle larvae.

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