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Northern carrion beetle

Eastern Washington

Northern carrion beetle on a carcass - Thanatophilus lapponicus
Northern carrion beetle on a carcass

Northern carrion beetles are about a half-inch long, have ridges and stipples on their elytra or wing covers, and eat dead animals and the larvae of flies and other beetles. Northern carrion beetles prefer to feed on substanially sized mammals and birds-- rat-size or larger. They dig under their carcass and feed from underneath or burrow through cavities.

The beetles fly by smell toward decaying meat from over a mile away and lay eggs on or near the carcass. Eggs hatch within a few days and their beetle larvae go to work, gorging themselves before digging into soil to pupate then mate and lay more eggs or fly in search of the next meal.

These beetles were observed feeding on a mule deer carcass in the Methow Valley.

Picture of northern carrion beetles digging into meat
Northern carrion beetles digging in

Picture of northern carrion beetles mating
Northern carrion beetles mating