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American Carrion Beetle (Necrophila americana)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the American Carrion Beetle



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Image Credit: David S. from Fredericksburg, VA
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Image Credit: Clayton M. from NC
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Image Credit: Kelly G. from Alexandria, VA
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Image Credit: David S. from Fredericksburg, VA
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Image Credit: Andrea S. from MO
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Image Credit: Michael L. from Denton, MD
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The American Carrion Beetle helps to complete the circle of life, though their diet is usually something living things avoid.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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. Larvae are fast, but may stop abruptly or curl as a defense to threats. The body is covered in armor-like plates that fan out at the bottom sides of each segment. 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.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Silphidae
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          Genus: Necrophila
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            Species: americana
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Necrophila americana
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 13mm to 22mm (0.51" to 0.86")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, tan, ivory, yellow
Descriptors: spot, rough, mark, flying

American-Carrion-Beetle Video(s)




Fast, seemingly headless larva runs short sprints (courtesy of Clayton M.).
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 13mm and 22mm
Lo: 13mm
Md: 17.5mm
Hi: 22mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the American Carrion Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the American Carrion Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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