Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The lover of death

I need to thank Amadan on the wonderful iSpot web site for identifying this strange beetle that I found on heathland in Weardale today. 

It was very lively on a warm afternoon, clambering through the heather, raising its wing cases and extending its wings. That broad, flat thorax - like a cloak - is very distinctive.

Here it is at the moment of vertical take-off, when it flew away over the heather.

It's Thanatophilus rugosus, a carrion beetle that lays its eggs on the corpses of dead animals, which then provide sustenance for its developing larvae. Its scientific generic name, Thanatophilus, literally means 'lover of death', in reference to its gruesome breeding habits. In Greek mythology Thanatos was the demon who personified death.

You can find some more examples of carrion beetles by clicking here


  1. This is a new one. I wonder what it's success rate is if it doesn't bury the carcass. You would think something would eat it's eggs.

    1. Interesting thought Adrian - I wonder if the big increase in carrion-scavenging buzzards and red kites will reduce the beetle's potential breeding sites?


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