Monday, July 23, 2012

Weird Bugs!

Scarlet and her buddy, Sanne, found this pair of beetles with a recently deceased shrew in our bottomland today.

A little googling and picking the brain of my entomologist friend, Glenn, tells me that these are carrion beetles, but exactly what sort, we're not quite sure.

Regardless, the way that carrion beetles work is pretty fascinating, if you have the stomach for that sort of thing.

A male scopes out a "good" corpse, then sets about advertising the fact via pheromones. Eventually, if he's lucky, a lady beetle is thus wooed, and together they work to move and bury the carrion, preventing this tempting treat from being stolen by another carrion fan.

The new couple either bury the body where they find it, or transport it a short distance away (usually about a meter) by crawling under the carrion, flipping themselves upside down and "walking" the corpse (picture a bucket brigade handing buckets of water on down the line) forward a smidge, then either passing the load on to their partner, or repeating the whole exhausting process themselves. From what I've read, these beetles can lift something like 200 times their own body weight! This shrew must have been easy-peasy for them.

After burying their find, the female lays eggs in a chamber just above the burial site. The eggs hatch into larvae, which are then fed the carrion by their parents, via regurgitation, until they are able to go and dine on their own. Some bug sites suggest that the number of eggs laid by the female is proportionate to the size of their "meal".

I find their whole life cycle nasty, yet fascinating. The most unique characteristic though, is the fact that a mated pair stays together to prepare for and raise the young. That's pretty uncommon in most wild animals, and, I'm told, is extremely uncommon in insects of any kind.

So there you go - gross yet informative Boggy Hollow factoid of the day.

Carrion, my wayward bug! ;)

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