Sexton beetles are the undertakers of the beetle world. They are attracted to the corpses of small mammals and birds by sulphur chemicals given off during decay. Once a pair of beetles have taken possession of a body - sometimes fighting off other pairs to do so - they will bury it, by digging away at the soil underneath. They then use the buried body as both home and food for their larvae.
Scientific name: Nicrophorus
Sexton beetles bury a ready-made larder for their young.
The orange antennae of a sexton beetle guide it to the body a young, dead hedgehog. The female beetle will eventually lay her eggs on the corspe, and then bury it by digging a chamber underneath the body and covering it completely. The female and her offspring then have their own larder to keep them going through the winter months.
Burying beetles or sexton beetles (genus Nicrophorus) are the best-known members of the family Silphidae (carrion beetles). Most of these beetles are black with red markings on the elytra (forewings). Burying beetles are true to their name- they bury the carcasses of small vertebrates such as birds and rodents as a food source for their larvae. They are unusual among insects in that both the male and female parents take care of the brood.
The genus name is sometimes spelled Necrophorus in older texts. This is an emendation by Carl Peter Thunberg (1789) of Fabricius's original name, and is not valid.
The American burying beetle (sp. Nicrophorus americanus) has been on the U.S. endangered species list since 1989.
Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.
Some of the most memorable sequences in natural history result from timelapse photography, an astonishing filming technique that opens our eyes to a whole new world.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.