The American Carrion Beetle helps to complete the circle of life, though their diet is usually something living things avoid.
The American Carrion Beetle earns its name by eating decaying flesh in both its larval and adult form. Sometimes adults may be seen eating fungi or rotten fruit. In addition to to dead flesh and stinky fruit, they also eat maggots and other insect larvae feeding on decaying animals. Dried skin and muscle tissue is eaten as well. This unsavory role aids in returning nutrients from dead animals back into the ecological food web.
This little beetle has the appearance of a fat Firefly at first glance. In flight, it may look more like a small, flattened Bumblebee. It can smell carrion from a distance and instinctively flies to it and tucks in for a tasty meal. Its elytra (wing covering) and head are black. The elytra has a bumpy texture and a clear mid-line where it splits open so its wings, safely stored underneath, can take flight. It has a yellowish pronotum ('shoulder' area) with a distinct black mark in the center that is shaped somewhat like a shield or badge. Eggs are laid near a decaying animal in order to keep the newly hatched black larvae close to a food source. It takes about 3 months for larvae to mature into adulthood. One generation of American Carrion Beetle is born each year.
Adults prefer moist habitats, and are active all summer; even more so on hot days. Hiding is its preferred method of defense. Look for them on or near animal carcasses or rotting food, or under rocks and leaf litter nearby.
Scientific Name: Necrophila americana
Size (Adult; Length): 13mm to 22mm (0.51in to 0.86in)
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Antennae: Beetles have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and mandibles (jaws).
Thorax: Holds the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Elytron: One of two wing cases on a Beetle that protects its wings (plural: elytra).
Wings: Appendages used for flying and kept under the elytra until needed.
Abdomen: Houses organs related to circulation, reproduction, and excretion.
Legs: Beetles have three pairs of legs located at the thorax, numbering six legs in all.