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Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus spp.)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Burying Beetle.

 Updated: 2/13/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.InsectIdentification.org




Burying Beetles are efficient consumers of small, dead vertebrates making them a critical part of the food web.



Adult Burying Beetles can bury a dead bird or small mammal, even going so far as to remove feathers or hair. The carcass is formed into a ball shape before females lay eggs on it. The beetle covers the carcass with soil or plant debris to help hide it from other things that eat away at decaying animals. Once its eggs hatch, the emerging larvae feed on the remains of the animal. In some species, the parents help feed the newly hatched larvae.

Burying Beetles are black with large red patches shaped like puzzle pieces on the elytra (wing covering). Antennae have large red clubs, or knobs at the tip. Adults feed on carrion themselves as well as rotting fruit and maggots. If disturbed, they can produce a raspy, buzzing sound that is similar to a bee. The noise comes from rubbing the abdomen against the elytra. That sound, and the alarming coloration, may help the Burying Beetle avoid conflicts with potential predators. The noise is also believed to be a call to newly hatched larvae to feed.

Various species of Burying Beetle can be found in North America. Their habitat includes the floors of fields, meadows and forests (deciduous and mixed woods). Activity at night is more typical than daytime. Because they consume dead or rotting material at both life stages, Burying Beetles help return nutrients to the food web quickly. Their food source isn't fragrant or lovely, but their role in an ecosystem is essential.




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Acari
        Family: Silphidae
          Genus: Nicrophorus
            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Scientific Name: Nicrophorus spp.
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 12mm to 22mm (0.47in to 0.86in)
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, red, yellow, orange
Descriptors: flying, checkered, antennae club, helpful
Territorial Map
Alaska  
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Prince Edward Is.  
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Territorial Reach (A-to-Z)
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Delware
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming
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Alberta
British Columbia
Manitoba
New Brunswick
Newfoundland and Labrador
Nova Scotia
Ontario
Prince Edward Island
Quebec
Saskatchewan
Mexican National Flag Graphic
Mexico
Note: 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 as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.




Beetle Anatomy
Graphic showing basic anatomy of a common North American Beetle insect
1
Antennae: Beetles have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
2
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and mandibles (jaws).
3
Thorax: Holds the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
4
Elytron: One of two wing cases on a Beetle that protects its wings (plural: elytra).
5
Wings: Appendages used for flying and kept under the elytra until needed.
6
Abdomen: Houses organs related to circulation, reproduction, and excretion.
7
Legs: Beetles have three pairs of legs located at the thorax, numbering six legs in all.