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What’s all this carryin’ on?

October 1, 2018

 Insects play an important role in maintaining a clean environment and reducing the risk of disease by colonising and consuming carrion. Two important players in this process are carrion beetles and fly larvae and the race between the two for this food source is very competitive.

The strategy of carrion beetles of the sub-family Nicrophorinae is to get to the carcass first. They then attempt to bury the dead body before the flies can lay eggs on it. These beetles feed during the early stages of decomposition – fresh and bloated. Their very short lifecycle means that even if the carcass is fly-blown much of their larval development has happened before the maggots can dominate.

Carrion Beetles of the sub-family Silphinae beetles however have a longer lifecycle. They tend to feed on the later stages of decomposition – decayed and dry, after the maggots have had their fill. At the back of our property are the dry remains of a kangaroo, mainly just the bones and tail. The maggots have long gone. Crawling all over the carcass are the larvae of these carrion beetles (pictured). The Silphinae adults on the other hand also eat the fly maggots themselves.

A good rule when dealing with competitors – if you can’t beat them, eat them.

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