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.
Scientific Name: Nicrophorus spp.
Size (Adult; Length): 12mm to 22mm (0.47in to 0.86in)
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.
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.