6/10/2022: Necrophiliac Necrophila
The meme of “disgusting bugs” is pervasive in western culture, and many of us who frequent this site do our best to dispel and educate away these erratic stigmas. However, there are truly beautiful bugs with necessary but gross life histories that do trigger innate disgust reactions from we battle-hardened invertebrate keepers.
Necrophila americana, aptly named in several ways, is a good-size and beautiful beetle from eastern North America. Unfortunately, it is most easily found on actively rotting carcasses, and due to its shy and tsundere nature, collecting specimens often requires interacting with and inevitably flipping said carcasses.
A good friend from the Appalachians happened across some mating pairs in their natural habitat and was kind enough to send them to me. The species can be found in Michigan, but not in my area and collecting it passively elsewhere involves the luck of finding dead things in relatively natural areas.
I have cultured a surprising (to myself and by Silphidae standards) number of carrion beetles in captivity, but a problem I always encounter is their commensal mites. In the wild, these mites persist on and around the carcasses the beetles frequent, and some move between food sources by hitchhiking on their beetle hosts. In captivity, this relationship is less balanced, as the mites eventually outnumber the beetles and can annoy their hosts to death with clinging behaviors in captivity’s confined spaces.
With this set, I painstakingly washed off the beetles to get rid of at least the visible mites, though this isn’t a pleasant or entirely safe process for the beetles. Out of the 4 beetles I washed, one of the females has yet to fully recover coordination or mobility, and may very well be on death’s door. An unfortunate but necessary loss in my book, however with this female’s uncertain fate one of the males figured that eating carcasses was just as taboo as mating with them, and he has begun to mount this Schrodinger’s bug.
Perhaps she will recover in a few more days and the story will have a happier ending, like some sort of bastardized Avenged Sevenfold song.