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American Carrion Beetle (Necrophila americana)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the American Carrion Beetle, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 1/30/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  American Carrion Beetle  
Picture of American-Carrion-Beetle

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.

Picture of the American Carrion Beetle
Picture of the American Carrion Beetle

American Carrion Beetle Information

Category: Beetle
Common Name: American Carrion Beetle
Scientific Name: Necrophila americana

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Coleoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Silphidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Necrophila
       Arrow graphic Species: americana

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 13 mm to 22 mm (0.507 inches to 0.858 inches)
Identifying Colors: black, tan, ivory, yellow
Additional Descriptors: spot, rough, mark, flying

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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