Burying Beetles

Burying beetles belong to the family Sylphidae. They take on the role of  nature’s undertakers and as such provide an excellent service in the less pleasant segment of the circle of life.

I was lucky enough to come across this one during the course of a walk on Carn Ingli Mountain. Spotting the movement of a clearly very dead shrew, I moved in to investigate and was amazed to find the comparatively small beetle tucked underneath it and manoeuvering it around at the beginning of the interment process. If I had been out on my own I probably would have sat and watched the progress for ages, and taken a lot more photographs, but my more squeamish  friends wanted to move on.


Burying beetle in the act of moving the carcass of a Shrew. Carn Ingli, Pembrokeshire

The beetles discover carcasses, usually of small mice or birds, using their very keen sense of smell. Once the body is buried, the female beetle lays her eggs beside it and once hatched, the developing larvae use it as a source of food.

There are four species of similarly-coloured and sized burying beetles in Great Britain and as I only managed to get the one photograph of this ones’s back end, I’m not sure which one it is, but think it may be Nicrophorus vespillo.

Other species similarly coloured marked are Nicrophorus vespilloides, Nicrophorus investigator (I love that name), and Nicrophorus interruptus.

There are two further species that are black in colour; Nicrophorus humator and Necrodes littoralis.

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