Burying Beetle

We found the following beetle walking along the floor, and, not knowing beetles,
decided to photograph it, and then sent the image to Christopher Majka.

Here is the photo, and his reponse.

Burying Beetle

Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus sayi, photo © 2006 by Blake Maybank
White's Lake, HRM, Nova Scotia -- 7 May 2006

"As it transpires there is just enough detail and the angles of the photo are sufficiently correct, that I can identify it to species. This is a so-called "burying beetle", Nicrophorus sayi Castelnau. There are 7 species in the genus Nicrophorus found in Nova Scotia, and they are (in large measure) differentiated by the orange patterns on their elytra. You'll notice in the photos that the anterior orange spots (the ones closest to the middle) on the elytra (the hard "covers" that fold over the wings and abdomen) curve around the humerus (the shoulder). Also that the clubs of the antennae are orange and that the pronotum (the middle section of the beetle) is shiny and without pubescence. All these taken together are sufficient to identify it to species.

It is a common species in Nova Scotia (recorded in 13 counties). They are called "burying beetles" because they look for small dead birds, mice, frogs, etc. in forested areas and excavate the soil beneath them, gradually "burying" the animal. They then lay eggs on the dead animal and the larvae feed on the carrion. This behavior results from competition with flies: the faster they can bury an animal the fewer flies will lay eggs on it and fly maggots are their competition for this food source.

In any event, they are excellent fliers and are attracted to lights (as well as to the smell of anything decomposing) so they sometimes end up in homes. In any event, thanks for the information. I'll add it to our database. I'm not sure offhand if this is early to find them or not, but I suspect not.

Another good photo is located here:"

Christopher Majka - Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Electronic Resources on Coleoptera

Page created by Blake Maybank
Editor, "Nova Scotia Birds"
Author, "Birding Sites of Nova Scotia"

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