The reproduction cycle of Nicrophorus americanus is really fascinating! First and foremost, both the male and female will participate in caring for their offspring, which is very rare in the order Coleoptera. Also, unlike most species, the male and female are sexually monomorphic meaning they are the same physically in size and strength.  By using their chemoreceptors located on the antennae, the male and female Nicrophorus americanus utilize a mammal’s carcass in order to reproduce. Typically they search for a carcass that is about 80-100g in a habitat where there is soil so that the carcass can be buried.  By breaking up the soil around the carcass, the male and female Nicrophorus americanus buries the animal’s body underground (Creighton, 1998). After this process is finished, they will then proceed to create a ball from the excess flesh and fur/ feathers that were removed during the burial. The female is now ready to lay her eggs!  She will lay her eggs singly in the soil that surrounds the carcass so that when her eggs hatch they are able to enter the balled up carcass and feed (Meierhofer, 1999). Both the male and female stay with their larvae for several days in order to regurgitate food, preserve their mammal carcass, and also defend their young. The male will be the first one to leave, and soon after the female will also abandon the larvae (Creighton, 1998).


Image courtesy of Wayne National Forest

The average time it takes for Nicrophorus americanus to bury a carcass, hatch their eggs, and leave was between 62 and 84 days. Physiological and ecological factors are a factor during Nicrophorus americanus’ season of reproduction, especially depending on temperature.  When the temperature is lower, the  development of the larvae will take longer (Meierhofer, 1999).




Learn why Nicrophorus americanus is an Endangered Species


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