Currently viewing the category: "Carrion Beetles"

Hello bugman
My son found this bug in our front yard.
We live in central Illinois What is it? Thanks

Hi KH,
This is one of the Sexton Beetles, the Tomentose Burying Beetles. Sexton Beetles often work in pairs to bury small dead animals like birds or mice. They lay eggs on the corpse and the rotting flesh provides food for the larvae. We just posted an image of a group of Tomentose Burying Beetles on the carcass of a mouse.

My daughter nearly stepped on these while walking her dog through a recently mowed field. I have scrolled through your bug links until I am dizzy and cross-eyed. Can you tell me what they are? They seemed to be feeding on a small dead rodent, possibly killed during the mowing. (Notice the hitch-hiker flies.) Thanks.
South-central Missouri

Hi Vicki,
These are Sexton Beetles or Burying Beetles. They will bury the mouse and lay eggs on it. It just seems odd that there are so many at work as they generally work as a couple. We believe these are Tomentose Burying Beetles, Nicrophorus tomentosus.

I was wondering what sort of insect this is. It landed on our picnic table in Frankfort Indiana and had little red aphid-like insects crawling on it’s carapace and antenna. The insect was having difficulty moving but did not seem to be fighting the aphids other than to get them off its antennae. Can you identify it? Thanks

Hi Megan,
This is a Burying Beetle or Sexton Beetle in the genus Nicrophorus. They bury small animals and lay eggs since rotting flesh is the larval food. The red crawlers you saw, but that your photograph does not show very well, are maggot eating mites. The Burying Beetle and the Mites have a symbiotic relationship. The Mites hitch a ride on the Burying Beetle to be transported to a new food source, since maggots also feed on rotting flesh. This ride hitching is known as Phoresy. The Burying Beetle benefits since the mites eat fly eggs and maggots leaving more rotting flesh for the developing beetle larva. Nice tablecloth.

Burying Beetle: babies or parasites?
I found this swimming around in the cat’s water dish one morning in West Tennessee. I forgot to get a photo with a size reference, but it was about an inch long. I believe it might be a burying beetle? Although its markings differ from the other photos on your site. The freaky part, though, was the swarm of little bugs on its back. They were running around, trying to stay dry. I think they might have eight legs; mites, maybe? At any rate, I put the whole shebang outdoors to continue playing out its drama. I love the site. I saw my first cicada killer last summer, and you guys helped me identify it. Thanks!

Hi D,
These are neither babies nor parasites. They are Mites, but they are not parasitic on the beetle. The young beetle larvae eat rotting carrion, so anything that shares the same diet becomes a threat to the survival of the next generation of Burying Beetles or Sexton Beetles. Maggots, the immature form of flies, are competitors for this food source. The Mites eat fly eggs and freshly hatched maggots. The Mites do not fly and have no means of getting to their next meal once they have eaten all the maggots on a corpse. The Burying Beetle flies from food source to food source. The Mites are just hitching a ride on the Beetle. This is a mutually advantageous or symbiotic relationship. The Mites get a new food source, and they devour the competitors for the young beetles’ food supply. Burying Beetles carrying large quantities of Mites have a better chance of producing offspring. Phoresy is the proper term for one organism hitching a ride on a more mobile organism. We have seen photos of some Burying Beetles so laden with Mites, it is a wonder they can fly.

Hi I saw this beetle while taking a walk and thought id photograph it. It appears to have children on its back that it is guarding. I was just wonder what type of beetle it is and what its habits are?

Hi Stefan,
This is a Burying Beetle in the genus Nicrophorus. The creatures you perceived as children are mites. The mites are not parasitic on the beetle, but use it for transportation, a phenomenon known as phoresy. The mites climb on the beetle to be carried to the next dead creature the beetle encounters. The Burying Beetles often work in pairs burying animals after finding small dead rodents or birds, or even reptiles. Once the beetles have successfully buried the animal, eggs are laid and the carcass will provide food for the newly hatched larvae.

whats this?
Thanks for the hard work you put in to your wonderful site! My sweetie and I have been exploring a meadow in central mass -part of an audubon refuge- and have become quite fascinated with the monarch butterflies and their exploding population. Over the past few months we’ve spent a lot of time there and we’ve been working on witnessing every stage of their amazing transformation. I have a terrible attention span, however, and at one point I wandered away from the shiny chrysalis I’d been staring at and got surprised by this bug buzzing around in the tall grass. I managed to snap a few pictures of it before it flew away, but I think this was one of the creepier bug-spectacles I’ve seen yet. Please tell us whether it’s a mom offering her offspring a ride or a swarm of parasitical mites!
Andrew, Arlington Mass.

Hi Andrew,
This is neither. It is a beetle giving a ride to some Mites, a phenomenom known as Phoresy. We often get photos of Mites using Burying Beetles for transportation to a fresh carcass. This looks more like a Flower Scarab Beetle, but we will see if Eric Eaton can provide further insight. Eric quickly wrote back: “Had me fooled for a moment, too, but it IS a burying beetle, specifically Nicrophorus tomentosus, named for the yellow tomentum (fuzz) on its thorax. Eric”