A case of a Pustulated Carrion Beetle (Nicrophorus pustulatus, Coleoptera: Silphidae) burying live Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor, Passeriformes: Hirundinidae) nestlings under the nest


  • Kestrel V.B. DeMarco Queen's University
  • Paul R. Martin Queen's University




Burying beetle, Nicrophorus pustulatus, Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor, evolutionary ecology


The ecology of Pustulated Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus pustulatus, Coleoptera: Silphidae) appears distinct among Nicrophorus species, with evidence of it parasitizing snake eggs and foraging primarily above the ground and into the forest canopy. Here we document an extension of its aberrant ecology and behaviour: a case of N. pustulatus burying 2-day-old live and dead nestlings of Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor, Passeriformes: Hirundinidae) under the nest, behaviour consistent with the early stages of breeding in N. pustulatus. Based on different levels of decomposition, we suspect that N. pustulatus responded to one dead swallow nestling in the brood of five and went on to bury all of the nestlings at the bottom of the nest box. The observation provides the first evidence, to our knowledge, of Nicrophorus burying live vertebrates.

Author Biographies

Kestrel V.B. DeMarco, Queen's University

Undergraduate student in the department of Environmental Studies


Paul R. Martin, Queen's University

Associate professor of Evolutionary Ecology and Biogeography in the Biology department