American Burying Beetle - Flesh Eating Bugs - Will Mother Nature Never Cease to Amaze?
I’ve been meaning to bring this phenomenal occurrence to your attention for some time; I just haven’t found the time. Pay attention. To me this is the most bizarre exhibition of Mother Nature’s creatures I’ve even seen.
I have three indoor cats. I have two outdoor cats that have adopted me. Lordy Goshen, I’ve become the proverbial cat lady! That’s ok; cats are great people and less demanding than men or dogs! Oops! There I go, getting off point before I even tell you where I’m going with this story! (You still love me though, right??)
Anyway, one day a couple of months ago I was sitting at the bistro on my front porch and I noticed a dead ‘thing’ in my yard. Upon inspection, I discovered it was a dead rat, fully intact. I wondered why Triscuit, one of my outdoor adoptees hadn’t devoured it. Surely, if she’d killed it, she’d eat it, right? Apparently not! She made no move towards the dead rodent. I have no idea how it even died because there was no evidence of attack. Hmmm. I spent most of the day contemplating this occurrence outside the realm of Nature as I know her.
The only way I can really tell this story is by the photos I took throughout the day depicting the various stages of what I witnessed. I saw this entire rodent slowly being brought into the earth by means invisible to me at the time. I witnessed the earth becoming soft and aerated, much as is indicative to moles. The more the rodent receded into the earth - completely intact mind you - I began seeing insects I’d never seen before. They worked together in an army pulling this mammal into the earth. Horse flies came to help by aerating the surrounding turf to ease in delivery.
I will now give you a blow by blow play of the process, which took about eight hours to complete. Then I will share with you what I discovered when I googled this particular bug. Its name is American Burying Beetle.
Venture with me to view the life of American Burying Beetles, then I will tell you the story behind what you are about to see. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me!
An interesting look at the American Burying Beetle
As it turns out, American Burying Beetles, which live underground, bring the carcasses of small rodents and birds into their dens to feed larvae. Both male and female beetles share the job of feeding their upcoming offspring and will fight each other for the carcasses. Winner takes all! Once the battle is won, males and females work together to bring the prey home. They bury the carcasses in order to conserve their ‘stash’ so others cannot benefit from the feed.
These amazing beetles proceed to build a hole beneath the carcass where they cover the remains in anti-fungal and antibacterial secretions. In so doing, the beetles cause the fur to be removed and it is used as components to build their nest. Burying beetles help to feed the larvae, which are capable of feeding themselves, by eating the flesh, then regurgitating the fluids onto the larvae. (Yuck!) The body of the carcass is formed into a ball creating a crypt where the females lay their eggs. The larvae then mature inside the ‘crypt’, much like a protective tomb.
These critters may never make themselves known to you until you happen upon Mother Nature working her underground magic. She sure surprised me!
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Some interesting facts about the American Burying Beetle
Here's what Wikipedia has to say about this amazing beetle.
Update June 2013
Last week I saw a dead baby Cardinal in my yard. Again, the cats hadn't eaten it. I don't know how the bird died. I'm assuming the cats didn't kill it or they would have devoured all but the tail feathers. Once again, the American Burying Beetles came to rid my yard of dead meat.
I've learned to recognize the mounds I periodically see in my yard as the work of Burying Beetles taking advantage of Nature's course in order to build an underground home for their young.
May Nature never cease to amaze!
Shauna L Bowling
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© 2012 Shauna L Bowling
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