Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Silphidae (Carrion or Burying Beetles)

As their name implies, these beetles tend to feed and breed on carrion and decaying material. Adults have also been found on fungi. Fourteen species have been found in Wisconsin. The carrion beetles provide a great service by removing dead animal matter from the world.

Adults have a relationship with predatory mites. This relationship is called “phoresy” and means that the mite travels with the adult beetle without being predatory on that beetle. These mites help the beetles to compete with other insects scavenging on rotting flesh by eating the eggs of carrion-feeding flies. You’ll see the mites on some of the pictures.


The adults have a defense of either mimicking bumble bees or oozing or spraying a foul smelling fluid from their anus.


Most of the Nicrophorus species that have been ecologically studies carry these Poecilochirus mites. The mites life cycle is tied to that of the beetle. Many of the mites appear to be host specific but there  is so much more work that needs to be done with these. Although the Poecilochirus mites are the most frequently encountered and the most well studied, there are 4 other families of mites that have a phoretic relationship with Silphid beetles. Those are Parasitidae, Macrochelidae, Uropodidae, and Histiomatidae. “Initial work in the 1960s indicated an apparent mutualistic mite-beetle relationship resulting from the mites’ predation on fly eggs that would otherwise hatch and compete with the beetle offspring. However more thorough examination of this relationship has found greater complexity – including examples of mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism, varying with species and conditions. What was one thought to be a single species of mite, Poecilochirus carabi, has since been discovered to be a species complex of several morphologically similar, but reproductively isolated species that are specific to their host beetle species.  Only a few of these cryptc mite species have been described or examined in detail. It is likely that most of the 69 species of known Nicrophorus have their own (probably undescribed) Poecilochirus species.”  (Enc of Ent, p755-756.)

See Poecilochirus sp for info about the mites

Silphidae, Roundneck Sexton Beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis, phoresy













The adults have a defense of either mimicking bumble bees or oozing or spraying a foul smelling fluid from their anus.