Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ridged Carrion Beetles

This flat-looking beetle is a Ridged Carrion Beetle (Oiceoptoma inaequale) and they are found throughout the Eastern United States. This one was photographed at Corby Pond in St. Joseph while I was leading an ecology trail hike with a 3rd grade class. We discovered a turtle shell with numerous blow flies and carrion beetles all consuming what was left of the flesh of the deceased turtle. The kids were grossed out by the smell, but came around once I convinced them how cool it was to watch these beetles in action. They do not eat the rotting flesh of dead things, rather they prefer the fly maggots left by blow flies that also frequent dead and decaying animal flesh. They will also mate on the carcass and the young beetle larvae will consume carrion just like the fly maggots do.

I explained to the kids how important these beetles were to the environment, pointing out how quickly we would be overrun with smelly carcasses without them and other insects there to play clean-up crew.
We discovered a deer head that was slicked clean, with exception to a little hide left on the very top of the skull.

This particular species of carrion beetle is found in deciduous woodlands, especially near a water source. This was perfect habitat for them, the small pond is surrounded by timber.

This is a raccoon carcass found near a wetland area on our farm. I have no idea how the skin ended up pulled forward off the skull instead of backwards, but this critter appears to have been killed by some kind of disease or possibly starvation. In the end all things must die, but through this process, other things go on to survive and even thrive on the remains. Carrion beetles are an insect that not a lot of thought is given to, perhaps it is something we prefer to not think about. Death is a topic that makes many people uncomfortable, the untimely or unexplained death of an animal can raise questions we simply cannot find answers to. These beetles are important scavengers and decomposers, without them being outside would soon smell like rotten, decaying flesh, making any foray into the wilderness unpleasant. So I say Hooray for the Carrion Beetles!


  1. Excellent post. I think we need more initiatives like this one.

  2. Thanks anonymous, I appreciate your comment. :o)