margined burying beetle

(Nicrophorus marginatus)

Conservation Status
margined burying beetle
Photo by Kirk Nelson
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked


not listed


Margined burying beetle is a moderately-sized, North American burying beetle. It occurs throughout the United States, in Mexico, and in southern Canada. In Minnesota it is uncommon statewide but common to abundant in some locations. It is active from late February to November but most active in the hot summer months from July to August. It is usually found in open fields and meadows. Adults feed mostly on small carrion.

Margined burying beetle adult is 916 to (13.9 to 22 mm) long. The head and mouth parts are projected forward. The antennae are black and are abruptly widened at the tip (clubbed). They have 11 segments but the second segment is very small, making it appear that there are only 10 segments. The expanded portion of the club is mostly bright orange, black just at the base. It is covered with velvety hairs (setae).

The body is somewhat flattened and entirely black. The underside is covered with yellow hairs. The hardened plate covering the thorax (pronotum) is nearly round and entirely black with no orange markings. It is sharply flattened at the edges with narrow margins at the sides and a broad margin at the base. The plate between the wing bases (scutellum) is visible, moderate-sized, and entirely black.

The hardened wing covers (elytra) are truncate, appearing cut off at the tip and exposing 2 or 3 body segments. They are covered with long erect hairs and the lateral margins are folded under. The surface is smooth, not ridged. On each elytron there is a broad stripe on the lateral margin extending from the shoulder (humeral) angle almost to the wing tip, and two orange, horizontal bands. The front band is broad. It extends from the lateral stripe to the inner margin (suture) making a continuous band. The edges are sharply “toothed, as if tattered.” The rear band is narrower. It does not extend completely to the suture, and it is roundly lobed, not sharply toothed.

The legs are black. The fourth segment (tibia) on each hind leg is slightly curved. The end part of each leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has 5 segments.




Total length: 916 to (13.9 to 22 mm)


Similar Species


Open fields and meadows




February to November




After finding a carcass, the male will emit pheromones to attract a female. Together they will bury the carcass to keep it moist and prevent it being taken by a scavenger. Both adults feed the larvae.


Life Cycle


The female lays eggs close to the buried carcass. After they hatch the first stage (instar) larvae are fed by the adults. The adults overwinter.


Larva Food


Decaying flesh regurgitated by the adults.


Adult Food


Small carrion


Distribution Map



24, 27, 29, 30, 82, 83.







Coleoptera (beetles)  


Polyphaga (water, rove, scarab, long-horned, leaf, and snout beetles)  




Staphylinoidea (rove, ant-like stone, and carrion beetles)  


Silphidae (burying and carrion beetles)  




Nicrophorus (burying beetles)  



Nicrophorus guttulus labreae

Nicrophorus investigator latifrons

Nicrophorus lunatus

Nicrophorus mckittricki

Nicrophorus montezumae

Nicrophorus obtusisculletum

Silpha marginata


Common Names


margined burying beetle












The hardened or leathery forewings of beetles used to protect the fragile hindwings, which are used for flying. Singular: elytron.



The exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment of the thorax of an insect.



The exoskeletal plate covering the rearward (posterior) part of the middle segment of the thorax in some insects. In Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, the dorsal, often triangular plate behind the pronotum and between the bases of the front wings. In Diptera, the exoskeletal plate between the abdomen and the thorax.



A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses: The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae. Adjective: setose.



On insects, the last two to five subdivisions of the leg, attached to the tibia; the foot. On spiders, the last segment of the leg. Plural: tarsi.



The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot). The fifth segment of a spider leg or palp.






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Kirk Nelson

  Found a bunch of them on a mouse carcass along one of the open meadow trails. They move fast!   margined burying beetle  
        margined burying beetle  








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Other Videos
  Nicrophorus marginatus

Aug 6, 2012

A pair of Burying Beetles exulting over finding a dead shrew. Burying Beetles have the ability to detect the scent of recent death and when they find a small carcass such as a mouse or shrew they go to work moving the carcass to a place where it can be rolled into a ball and buried and their eggs laid nearby. The bodies of these beetles are crawling with tiny mites which form a symbiotic relationship with the beetles. The mites attack and destroy fly larvae that may want to share the feast with them and the beetles. The beetles will raise their young and feed them with bits of the dead shrew until their young pupate. Seen at Kawkawa Lake near Hope, BC June 2002.

( Nicrophorus marginatus ) Kawkawa Lake, Hope, BC June 2002

  Burying Beetles | National Geographic
National Geographic

Jun 6, 2011

You want zombies? A scary movie? These beetles can trump most Hollywood horror films anytime!
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Visitor Sightings

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Location: Woodbury Mn

  Kirk Nelson

Location: Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Found a bunch of them on a mouse carcass along one of the open meadow trails. They move fast!

margined burying beetle  






Created: 9/25/2020

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