Burying Beetles eat mouse

Subject: Mouse eating bugs
Location: Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
August 2, 2012 8:30 pm
It’s summer here, August 2nd, and I found these bugs outside in the evening devouring a dead mouse. They could fly, and occasionally they would fight each other. Also, it appeared as though they may have been carrying their babies on their back. They were incredibly active, especially when fighting with each other, any idea what they are?
Signature: -L

Burying Beetles eat mouse

Hi L,
These are Burying Beetles or Sexton Beetles in the genus
Nicrophorus, and Burying Beetles are best know for burying small dead animals and guarding the corpse while their larvae develop in the putrefying flesh.  It appears this mouse is on concrete, and the Burying Beetles are unable to bury it on site and it is too heavy for them to transport.  The babies you mentioned are most like Phoretic Mites which use the Burying Beetles’ ability to fly to hitchhike to a new food source.  The mites will feed on maggots and fly eggs so this is a symbiotic relationship between the Burying Beetles and the Phoretic Mites.  The Mites get transportation and the Bury Beetles benefit because there is more rotting flesh for their young, ensuring that more larvae will have enough food to mature and perpetuate the next generation.  You can get additional information on Burying Beetles on BugGuide.

3 thoughts on “Burying Beetles eat mouse”

  1. My husband and I found a dead mouse in our yard on the patio with what appeared to be a dead beetle on it as when we moved the mouse it fell off and layed on it’s back. We assumed the beetle was dead. As we were disposing of the mouse another beetle started flying around and eventually it landed on the “dead” beetle and the dead beetle became alive (active) we were pretty surprised to see this. They stayed attached to each other for several minutes then they both started flying around the bag with the disposed mouse. We looked up the beetle to see what we could find and realized we made the mistake of interrupting this very interesting cycle. We found that they are considered extirpated in Ontario. We live in Cambridge Ontario. Was very interesting to watch. My husband and I thought for sure the first beetle was dead as my husband had picked it up and it didn’t move. We later read that they do this when they are handled. Amazing creatures.

  2. My boyfriend and i came across a dead chipmunk that our cat killed the day prior. The dead rodent was on dirt by our lake. We moved it and at least 20of these creatures came out of the chipmunks body and out from underneath it and then burried itself into the ground. It was so weird. They were very quick. Kinda gross. Shapleigh, ME 8/31/19


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