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Burying beetle

Burying beetles (genus Nicrophorus) are the best-known genus within the family Silphidae (carrion beetles). Most of these beetles are black with red markings on the elytra (= forewings). They bury dead birds and rodents in order to lay their eggs into the carrion. Adults take care of the brood[?].


In Europe the most common species are:

  1. Nicrophorus germanica
  2. Nicrophorus humator
  3. Nicrophorus investigator
  4. Nicrophorus vespillo
  5. Nicrophorus vespilloides

In North America you find the following species:

  1. Nicrophorus americanus
  2. Nicrophorus sayi
  3. Nicrophorus orbicollis
  4. Nicrophorus pustulatus
  5. Nicrophorus defodiens
  6. Nicrophorus tormentosus
  7. Nicrophorus vespillo (the only species found in both continents)


After finding a dead animal (most likely a bird or a mouse) the beetles start to bury it. They begin to dig a hole below the carcass. While doing so, the beetles cover the animal with faeces. This is thought to retard the decay.

The eggs are laid close to the carcass. The hatching larvae move into the dead animal. Both parents feed the larvae: They digest the flesh and spit the now liquid food in front of the larvae. Later the larvae are able to eat themselves. The adult beetles continue to protect the larvae, which are now quickly developing. Many competitors make this task difficult, e.g. bluebottles[?] and ants or burying beetles of either another or the same species.

There are just a few examples of parental care among insects. Therefore the burying beetles are remarkable exceptions.

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