Burying The Dead

Common Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

I initially found this gloriously decorated beetle called the Common Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides) on my kitchen windowcill. You may notice it has a couple of passengers hitching a ride on its pronotum. These are Poecilochirus mites which don’t actually harm the beetle, but grab a ride to the next burial site. These beetles have an important role of getting rid of carrion by burying beneath them for their larvae to feed. The cheeky hitchhiking mites hop off when the beetle has found a new carcass, and the mites then breed themselves, their timing so perfect that when the adult beetles are ready to fly the new generation of mites hitch a ride with them in search of another dead animal.

Feel free to click on the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

July 2019, rear garden, South Staffordshire, England. Β© Pete Hillman.

32 thoughts on “Burying The Dead

  1. Wow! Great picture of an exceptional beautiful beetle including this fascinating mites πŸ™‚ Wonderful nature where everything is so fabulously toothed!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s the way I feel, when I see how everything is connected. The insects and plants show us all the time. Fascinating!

        Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes.. the story is written there for us to see but I wouldn’t have seen this story without your help. Thanks for sharing Pete πŸ™‚

        Liked by 3 people

    1. It is fascinating, and something I have not seen before, except on bees, but where the mites do tend to feed off them.


  2. Interesting story of these hitch hikers. Zoomed in to get a good look at those mites.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Coincidentally, tonight while walking the dog, I came across a mouse carcass writhing with similar beetles. Gross and fascinating all at once!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my, I just looked it up and this beetle is critically endangered here. Do you think I should do something? It was only on the side of the road barely off the pavement. Notify someone, entomologist, agency? What would you do?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It should be fine Eliza. You find they probably find a lot of road kill to survive on as well as those animals which have suffered other demises.


      2. This morning I couldn’t find a trace of that mouse – completely gone! If not for your post, I wouldn’t have thought much more about it, but now I’ll keep an eye for them and take a photo if I see them again.

        Liked by 1 person

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