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American Carrion Beetle

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American Carrion Beetle


American Carrion Beetle, are a family of beetles that feed on the bodies of dead and decaying animals. When an animal dies in the woods, it immediately begins to decompose or rot. Carrion beetles eat the rotting flesh of dead animals


American Carrion Beetle

American Carrion Beetle

American Carrion beetles come in many sizes. Some are very small while others can get as big as 1.4 inches (or about 35 mm). The average size of a Carrion beetle is 1/2 inch. They have flat, flexible bodies that allow them to crawl under dead animals. Carrion beetles are found all over the world. There are 46 different kinds in North America, many of which are found in the United State.


American Carrion beetles and other decomposers are important because they get rid of dead matter by eating it and breaking it down into smaller pieces that can be placed back into the ecosystem. The small pieces of dead animals become nutrients that other animals and plants can feed on. Some kinds of Carrion beetles actually bury small animal carcasses so that they can lay their eggs on it (the eggs will be safer under the ground). When carcasses are buried, they decompose faster and don't smell as much - helping to keep our environment cleaner.


Among the most unique and sensitive of these organisms are the carrion beetles (Order Coleoptera, Family Silphidae). Carrion beetles can find carrion within an hour of death and from up to 1.5 miles (4 kilometers) away by using olfactory organs located on their antennae. In addition to their remarkable ability to detect the odor of death, carrion beetles generate interest because they are large and brightly colored. In fact, beetles in the genera Nicrophorus and Necrodes often comprise the largest beetles in student insect collections.


American Carrion Beetle

American Carrion Beetle

Life Cycle :The family Silphidae is divided into two distinct subfamilies, based on beetle morphology and behavior. Members of the subfamily Silphinae arrive during the early to middle stages of carcass decomposition and lay eggs on or near the carcass. Their young then feed on the fly larvae that are present on the carcass.


As a result, these insects provide a valuable ecological service by reducing the number of flies and the potential for disease transmission. Although they are diverse, their biology differs little from other insects and thus, as a group, they have received relatively little research interest.


American Carrion Beetle crawl under the carcass and assess its mass. If the carcass is appropriately sized, a male and female pair entombs the carcass. The burial process is thought to reduce the chances of discovery of the remains by other decomposers, including flies that could displace the beetles from the carcass. Breeding pairs of burying beetles work together to acquire and prepare the carcass as a reproductive resource. The bi-parental care of the resulting brood ball and offspring is a feature unique among insects.


American Carrion Beetle larvae

American Carrion Beetle larvae

Carrion Beetles have many different weapons that they use to protect themselves against attack by other predators. Their defense systems also allow them to live comfortably and grow in different kinds of environments. Many Carrion beetles blend into their environment and can not be seen easily because they are dark black and brown in color. However, there are other Carrion beetles that have bright colors like orange, yellow or red.


This bright coloring warns predators to keep away. Animals with bright colors can be poisonous, so the bright colors of some Carrion beetles make predators think they are poisonous. Carrion beetles also have chemical defenses. They secrete a strong, smelly odor that irritates other bugs and small animals. They can even spray the odor at predators to keep them away. They move the end of their abdomen around and spray in all directions.


American Carrion Beetle Eating

American Carrion Beetle Eating

Carrion beetles are generally considered beneficial, since they dispose of and recycle bodies of dead animals. They become a curiosity when people discover them above the ground.


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