A literature based key to the subfamily Nicrophorinae (Coleoptera: Silphidae) of Washington State by Cynthia Brast

Have you ever seen this really interesting beetle that scavenges for carrion and buries it underground?  Here’s one I photographed at San Juan Island National Historical Park’s American Camp.  Traveling with a load of phoretic mites  (phoresy means to hitch a ride), he was following his fine-tuned chemo-sensors (located on his antennae) on the trail of a dead animal.

If he was lucky that day and found rotting “Vinny vole”, he’d dance around with his tail up in the air to attract a mate.  Lucky twice? The dance worked.  She was interested!  He’d then have her work to help him bury the “road-kill” underground.  Once interred, they’d shape the carcass into a brood ball (looks like a bird nest) and the female beetle would lay her eggs in it.

Even more fascinating, the happy couple stick around to feed the larvae after they hatch.  The parent beetles even play them lullabies!  They stridulate (visualize a violin with a bow) to call the young in order to regurgitate food into their mouths.  Curious to know more?  Read my graduate literature review and see how fascinating these insects can be.

A Literature Based Key to Silphidae-Nicrophorinae in Washington State-1

Nicrophorous defodiens at San Juan Island National Historical Park

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