Country Corner

The Banded Sexton Beetle, nicrophorus investigator with Phoretic Mites
The Banded Sexton Beetle, nicrophorus investigator with Phoretic Mites

There is no mistaking the orange and black striped Banded Sexton Beetle.

Burying beetles search out dead mice and such like casualties.

Crawling underneath the little corpse, the beetle then starts digging, resulting in the dead mouse sinking ever lower into the soil until it is completely buried.

Having laid its eggs onto the cadaver, the beetle then stays around to care for its brood, unlike most insects which simply lay and go.

As you can see, these beetles often carry numerous mites. These mites are not parasites of the beetles.

In fact. they simply use these large flying beetles for transport from one dead animal to the next.

There may even be a benefit to the beetles, as the mites are thought to eat the eggs and grubs of other insects, thus reducing competition. Furthermore,it is said the mites eat fungus, bacterial spores and such like on the carcase, meaning it takes longer to decay and allows the beetle grubs longer to grow and develop.

So,if you come on any small dead animal in the countryside, it may be worth gently raising it to check underneath for this big impressive beetle.

However, please ensure you replace the carcase the way it was.

Sexton Beetles, like so many large insects, are less numerous these days and without them the natural recycling of dead animals in the countryside is impeded.

Surely an insect with such a fascinating and complex life cycle deserves all the help we can give it?