roundneck sexton beetle

(Nicrophorus orbicollis)

Conservation Status
roundneck sexton beetle
Photo by Steve Murray
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked


not listed


Roundneck sexton beetle is common, moderately-sized, North American burying beetle. It occurs throughout the eastern United States and in southern Canada, and in a few widely separated areas in the west. It is active from late May to October but most active in the hot summer months from June to August. It is usually found in deciduous forests and woodlands, but also in grasslands. Adults feed mostly on the feces of carnivores, including humans, but also on carrion, maggots, and rotting fruit.

Roundneck sexton beetle adult is to (15 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 brown 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 broad margins at the sides and 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. The lateral margins are folded under and are entirely black. The surface is smooth, not ridged. There are two pairs of orange markings on the elytra. The front pair is long and broadly jagged. The rear pair is smaller and more circular but still jagged. The shape of the elytral markings is a key identifying feature for each species within this genus.

The legs are black. The fourth segment (tibia) on each hind leg is straight, not curved. The end part of each leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has 5 segments.




Total length: to (15 to 22 mm)


Similar Species


Mostly woodlands




Late May to October




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.

Adults are attracted to light.


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


Mostly feces of carnivores, including humans, but also carrion, maggots, and rotting fruit.


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)  





Common Names


roundneck sexton 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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    roundneck sexton beetle      

Steve Murray

    roundneck sexton beetle      





Roundneck Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus orbicollis)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Roundneck Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus orbicollis)  



Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  Nicrophorus orbicollis round neck sexton beetle
Outside in Georgia

Aug 1, 2019

  Burying Beetle (Silphidae: Nicrophorus orbicollis) Lateral View
Carl Barrentine

Aug 27, 2011

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (26 August 2011).

  Beetles Eating Toad Frog Burying Beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis Chimney Rock NC bugs feeding
José da Vēde • Composer

Dec 19, 2012

The Burying Beetles are widespread throughout the North America. They feed on small animal carcasses, which the males using to attract a mate. The male releases pheromones once carcass is found. They will fight to the death with other males, but once order is established, a single male and female mate and bury the carcass together, sharing equally with the work load. Females then lay eggs nearby, which the larvae will use for nourishment. If the carcass is too big multiple beetles will be allowed.




Visitor Sightings

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Location: Fairview Twp.

roundneck sexton beetle  
  Steve Murray

Location: Karlstad, MN

roundneck sexton beetle  






Created: 7/5/2020

Last Updated:

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