Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Undertaker in action

Photo: Hallie Mason

Hallie Mason, who lives in the northeastern portion of Ohio, saw my last post on the American burying beetle and sent along this photo. She walked out of her house to see this epic struggle taking place in her driveway. We should all be so lucky!

It's another species of burying beetle, and it looks like a roundneck sexton beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis. I wrote about those last fall, HERE. The beetle has found an expired eastern mole and is grappling with the corpse in an effort to transport it to a suitable burial ground. Hallie reports: "I watched him valiantly move the carcass toward an area of dirt.  I finally went to bed and when I arose the next day, there was no sign of either rodent or insect."

Keep in mind the mole probably weighed 50 grams or so - dozens of times more than the beetle! In the strength department, one of these bugs makes Arnold Schwarzenegger at his prime look like an anemic Richard Simmons. Proportionately, a burying beetle is far stronger than that, actually. For one of us to match the mole-toting feat, we'd probably have to do something like toss a full-sized telephone pole over each shoulder and run a hundred yard dash.

Thanks to Hallie for sharing her photo and story!

1 comment:

rebecca said...

When I worked in Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan one of the things we did was pitfall trapping for beetles, and we definitely caught lots of some time of burying beetle. I didn't know what they were at the time - after we collected the beetles from the traps we sent them to someone else for ID - but years later I happened to see a photo of a big black-and-orange burying beetle and recognize it from hours and hours of collecting them out on the prairie. VERY cool insects.