Reproductive success, phenology and biogeography of burying beetles (Silphidae, Nicrophorus)

TitleReproductive success, phenology and biogeography of burying beetles (Silphidae, Nicrophorus)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsTrumbo ST
JournalThe American Midlands Naturalist

Burying beetles locate and bury small vertebrate carcasses which they form into brood balls for their young. The ability of burying beetles to outcompete vertebrate scavengers and other carrion-feeding invertebrates for carcasses was investigated by placing dead mice on the forest floor in the North Carolina piedmont. From May to September (1984-1985), beetles discovered only about 25% of carcasses on the first night. During midsummer of 1984, less than one-half of the carcasses that beetles managed to bury produced broods. Although three species of burying beetles (Nicrophorus orbicollis Say, N. tomentosus Weber and N. pustulatus Herschel) were caught in pitfall traps baited with a large quantity of carrion, only the first two were active on mouse carcasses. Compared with earlier studies in northern habitats of North America, burying beetles are less abundant, less diverse and not as successfrul in southeastern woodlands. Temperature-dependent competition is hypothesized to be an important determinant of burying beetle success.