Keep calm and carrion

Keeping up our moth obsession, the NNR team have been continuing with our Monday morning moth trapping. The trap remains an endless source of excitement and intrigue and this weeks haul did not disappoint!

Along with some gorgeous wee moths, like this beauftifully named Rosy Rustic..

Rosy rustic

We had a couple of these guys turn up in the trap!

They are carrion beetles also commonly referred to as burying beetles. Their ‘burying’ name refers to their behaviour of burying dead animals like small mammals and birds. Like most carrion insects, their life-cycle is fascinatingly gruesome and revolves around breaking down dead things, a vital role in all ecosystems.

A carcass will provide food and a lovely home for their young and so they bury the corpse to conceal it from other scavengers, such as foxes or badgers. They lay their eggs on the carcass and tidy it up for their newly hatched larvae by clipping the fur and feathers from it. They even secrete antibacterial substances onto its surface to slow the decomposition of the body. Burying beetles also make surprisingly attentive parents and feed their young in the ‘nest’ just like birds do. Find out more about their fascinating life-cycle and behaviours in this entertaining blog!

The more you learn about these beetles, the more amazing they become but what really got me excited was that when I looked closely at them I realised they were covered in tiny mites! These mites also lay their eggs on carcasses but they don’t have the ability to locate a carcass themselves. Instead, they hitch a lift on the beetle and hop off and breed once they arrive at a carcass. Their breeding cycle matches the timing of the burying beetle so when the next generation of adult beetles move off, the new generation of mites hop back on!

Burying beetle with a vest of mites!

There are 6 species of burying beetle found in the UK. These ones are Nicrophorus investigator, which are common and widespread and can be told apart from similar species by their orange antennal clubs.

If you’re wondering how these beetles ended up in our moth trap, it’s because some species of beetle are attracted to light – just like moths! If you’re already a moth trapper then you can start recording any burying beetles that show up in your trap on iRecord, using the iRecord app. Your records will contribute towards a citizen science project which aims to understand how the distribution of burying beetles is changing in the UK due to pressures such as habitat loss and climate change. Use this helpful identification key to ID what you find and take a notes of when and exactly where you found it. It can also be useful to note what you found it on. If you’re completely new to night time trapping insects then find out how to make your own light trap and get involved!

From a moth obsession to a burying beetle fascination.. I wonder what the trap will offer up next week..

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1 Response to Keep calm and carrion

  1. Pingback: Pick & Mix 51 – permafrost, shifting baselines, insect pests, carrion beetles, a history of chocolate, double flowers, wasps and the most beautiful springtail you have ever seen | Don't Forget the Roundabouts

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