Sunday, November 4, 2012

Silphidmanic Domino Effect

          Last month, I had an opportunity to exchange beetles with Brad Barnd (a friend I recently met through Bugguide, who also blogs at Midwestbugs). He generously took the extra time to send me the ID's of most of the unidentified material I sent him, and he got as far as his resources would take him with the rest. Outside of the awesome beetles I received in his package, it was thrilling to find out what creatures were in my collection, including this Sexton beetle.


Nicrophorus investigator
Nicrophorus investigator Zetterstedt
Copyright: Guy A. Hanley 1992

I knew only a well focused picture with good lighting could do this species justice, which is why I asked Guy Hanley for permission to use his picture on my blog. Thanks Guy!

It's really interesting how I ended up with this species in my collection, actually. While members of this family make their usual appearance at carrion and sometimes feces, I acquired this species in pitfall traps set up mostly for Ground beetles. As I mentioned in my "Cicindela nebraskana Loves Northern Utah" post, many specimens of insects fell in. What I'm guessing happened, is that the scent of the dead insects drew more and more insects, especially Nicrophorus to the trap, over time creating a domino effect. Dan found thirteen specimens of N. investigator in a single one of his traps! I didn't even use antifreeze in the traps, rather a soap, salt and water solution (I didn't want to be accountable for harming other animals). Another Silphid that came, this time in extremely overwhelming numbers, was Thanatophilus lapponicus (Northern Carrion Beetle).


Beetle found in wood splinters - Thanatophilus lapponicus
Thanatophilus lapponicus (Herbst)
Copyright: Carol Davis 2011 

While I'm in the swing of things, I'll take advantage of another photo. This one belongs to a bug enthusiast from my home state, Utah. Thank you too, Carol!

I've found this species at other places than traps though. Once in a heap of dead birds (unappealing AND odd), and a couple other times out in the open looking for a similar situation. Still, an attractive bug.


Aspen Tree bordered meadow.
Habitat for Nicrophorus investigator
and Thanatophilus lapponicus. 

I think the most attractive Silphid I've seen yet, is N. nigrita. I was taking a walk along a seaside trail in San Louis Obispo County, California, when I saw this species on the trail. I cautiously approached it, and noticed it had Mites all over it. I wasn't sure where the fellow had been, so I was a little reluctant to touch it with my fingers. I battled with it using my forceps, trying to transport it into my vial, when it squirmed out from between the flimsy metal and flew off. Darn! I hope I see this species again, as it definitely was a beauty. I also hope to find other species of this family at future pitfall traps.

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