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Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator)

The black sexton beetle is a burying beetle first described by German botanist Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch in 1767 as Silpha humator. It is known for its tendency to bury its food, mostly decayed meat of small dead animals. 

These beetles are nocturnal and attracted to light, so sometimes they end up in moth traps.

Black Sexton Beetle

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Silphidae
  • Genus: Nicrophorus
  • Scientific name: Nicrophorus humator

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 20- 30 mm (0.78 – 1.2 in)

Color: Their bodies are entirely black, with only the tips of their antennae being orange.

Other characteristic features: They have an eleven-segmented antenna, long and curved. Their elytra are broadened towards the top, while the legs appear long, and robust.

Nicrophorus humator

Larva

The larva hatch very quickly, within 12-48 hours. The parents take the responsibility of feeding their young for the first instar. In contrast, from the second instar onwards, they feed independently.

Pupa

From the third instar, the larva begins to pupate by going into the soil.

Egg

The female lays eggs in an excavated part of the food source, regulating the number of eggs depending on the available food.

Quick Facts

LifespanNot recorded
DistributionMostly in Britain; it has also been seen in North Africa
HabitatWoodlands
Seasons activeMarch to October
Diet of adults and larvaeCarrion of small creatures like birds, rodents, and frogs

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Like other burying beetles, the black sexton beetle will bury the carcass of its food source by removing the soil from underneath it. They will then remove the skin and fur from it, even amputating limbs to make it easier for them to devour.

Did you know

  • These beetles carry small mites on their underside, which appear to have a symbiotic relationship with them. The mites are carried to food sources: eggs and larvae of small flies that would compete with the beetles.
  • They form a single mating pair, who, on reaching a carcass, will proceed to drive out any other beetles present there at the time.
  • A fossil around 10,500 years old, possibly of the black sexton beetle, was described by American ecologist and zoologist Oliver Payne Pearson in 1962.
Black Sexton Beetle Picture

Image Source: warehouse1.indicia.org.uk, biopix.com, ephotozine.com

The black sexton beetle is a burying beetle first described by German botanist Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch in 1767 as Silpha humator. It is known for its tendency to bury its food, mostly decayed meat of small dead animals. 

These beetles are nocturnal and attracted to light, so sometimes they end up in moth traps.

Black Sexton Beetle

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 20- 30 mm (0.78 – 1.2 in)

Color: Their bodies are entirely black, with only the tips of their antennae being orange.

Other characteristic features: They have an eleven-segmented antenna, long and curved. Their elytra are broadened towards the top, while the legs appear long, and robust.

Nicrophorus humator

Larva

The larva hatch very quickly, within 12-48 hours. The parents take the responsibility of feeding their young for the first instar. In contrast, from the second instar onwards, they feed independently.

Pupa

From the third instar, the larva begins to pupate by going into the soil.

Egg

The female lays eggs in an excavated part of the food source, regulating the number of eggs depending on the available food.

Quick Facts

LifespanNot recorded
DistributionMostly in Britain; it has also been seen in North Africa
HabitatWoodlands
Seasons activeMarch to October
Diet of adults and larvaeCarrion of small creatures like birds, rodents, and frogs

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

Like other burying beetles, the black sexton beetle will bury the carcass of its food source by removing the soil from underneath it. They will then remove the skin and fur from it, even amputating limbs to make it easier for them to devour.

Did you know

  • These beetles carry small mites on their underside, which appear to have a symbiotic relationship with them. The mites are carried to food sources: eggs and larvae of small flies that would compete with the beetles.
  • They form a single mating pair, who, on reaching a carcass, will proceed to drive out any other beetles present there at the time.
  • A fossil around 10,500 years old, possibly of the black sexton beetle, was described by American ecologist and zoologist Oliver Payne Pearson in 1962.
Black Sexton Beetle Picture

Image Source: warehouse1.indicia.org.uk, biopix.com, ephotozine.com

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