The dense hairs on the pronotum of this Sexton Beetle add texture to its typically mite-laden body.
Mites that look like spiders often wander on the back of the Tormentose Burying Beetle. The beetle can fly, and as long as the number of mites remains small, they are harmless to the beetle. In fact, the mites seem to feed on fly maggots that would potentially attack and eat the beetle's eggs and young. In return, the flying beetle can transport the mites to a new food source at regular intervals.
This species is a type of Sexton Beetle, a kind of carrion beetle. Adults locate an animal corpse, like a bird or small mammal, and remove feathers and fur. The soft tissues are formed into a ball shape. The beetle then digs a shallow pit for the carcass bits and covers them with debris and leaf litter. After mating, females lay fertilized eggs on the decaying tissue. Once larvae hatch, parents eat and regurgitate bits of the carcass, feeding it to their young. Few insects give such devoted attention and care to their young.
The Tormentose Burying Beetle is black with four orange-yellow marks that resemble puzzle pieces. The round pronotum has two raised black humps on it, which are usually surrounded by a dense patch of pale yellow-green hairs. Other types of Sexton Beetles are hairless there. Short, stiff hairs may protrude from under the eltyra (wing coverings). Black antennae end in a frayed club.
Look for adults on or near dead animals. They can and do fly, and thanks to their shape, colors, and furry pronotum, they are often mistaken for bees. This beetle does not bite, nor does it sting. It plays an important role in nutrient cycling, helping ecosystems and is consequently an unusual, but highly beneficial insect.
Scientific Name: Nicrophorus tomentosus
Size (Adult; Length): 11mm to 19mm (0.43in to 0.74in)
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.