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.