Nicrophorus americanus!

This beetle lives in South Dakota, Nebraska, Rhode Island (how the heck), Oklahoma and Arkansas, and it's endangered, so no smooshing.

These things are also called sexton beetles or carrion beetles, yuck. They're scavengers and helps recycle decaying materials back into the ecosystem. Adult beetles are nocturnal and search widely for dead stuff. They are very good at detecting the odor of recent death. Using the smell organs on their antennae, they can find a dead mouse within an hour of death and from as far away as two miles. Wow. After flying to a carcass, they drop to the ground and go under the body, turn over onto their backs and experimentally lift the remains.

A male/female pair (they work in teams, I gather) may move mouse-sized remains several feet until dirt soft enough for burial is found. It remains unknown how a pair of beetles can agree on a burial site or how they are able to keep the carcass moving uniformly in one direction, but they do. The soil at the burial site is loosened by plowing through it like a teeny little bulldozer. Gradually, soil from beneath the carcass is displaced to the side, and the carcass settles into the ground and is buried under several inches of soil. Immediate, nocturnal burial is important because it prevents flies, active during the day, from laying eggs on the remains.

After burying it, the beetles strip off any fur or feathers and work the rest into a compact ball. You should stop reading this right now. They will then inject the remains with secretions that preserve the carrion and modify the decomposition. The female builds a little chamber above the carrion in which she lays from 10 to 30 eggs. Returning to the carcass, she prepares a conical depression on top of it. Both parents regurgitate droplets of partly digested food into the depression. The fluid accumulates as food for the larvae that will hatch in a few days. Shit, this is gross.

The larvae receive parental care during the whole time they are feeding and growing. This is an extremely rare and highly developed behavior in insects, a condition normally found only in the social bees, wasps, ants and termites. Both adults regurgitate food to begging larvae. The larvae grow rapidly and are soon able to feed themselves. The adults continually tend the carcass, removing fungi and covering the carrion ball with an antibacterial secretion. Sometimes the size of the brood is too large to be successfully reared on a small carcass, and both adults will cannibalize the smallest larvae. Shit. After about a week, the larvae have consumed all but the bones of the carcass, and the adults fly away. Living only one season, the adults soon die. The young pupate in the nearby soil and emerge as adults about a month later.

Of principal importance to the beetles and their young is burial of the food resource, which effectively removes it from the arena of intense competition by maggots, other carrion-feeding insects and even mammal scavengers. Carrion is an ephemeral, unpredictably encountered food source, and it is so valuable to the prospective parents that they bury it to keep it from being stolen.

Burying beetles are unique among the silphids because they break the cycle of competition at the food source and provide their larvae a considerably safer, relatively predator-free subterranean environment in which to develop.

Many thanks to:

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.