Nicrophorus vestigator (Herschel, 1807)
POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886
STAPHYLINOIDEA Latreille, 1802
NICROPHORINAE Kirby, 1837
Nicrophorus Fabricius, 1775
A Palaearctic-wide species distributed from Europe to the far east of Russia, China and Japan; in Europe it is widespread but very local and generally scarce, extending from the Mediterranean, including some of the islands but not North Africa, to a few of the southernmost provinces of Sweden, it is a mostly lowland species although extending into foothills and river valleys in the north. In the UK it was formerly widespread across Southern and Central England and sporadic and rare further north, almost reaching the Scottish border, but there has been a general decline and modern records are confined to the south east below the Wash and the Severn estuary; records tend to be scattered and the species is now generally very rare. The species might occur in a wide range of habitats but it seems there is a preference for open situations on light sandy soils, both inland and near the coast. Adults are present year-round, they are active from April until October and peak numbers occur during late spring and mid-summer, they probably overwinter among decaying organic matter as is usual for the genus. The biology is typical of the genus; adults are attracted to carrion which is defended until a suitable mate arrives and mating begins. The carrion is cleaned, disinfected and molded, and the partners work from below to bury it. The female will then oviposit in the soil adjacent to the carrion and larvae will emerge after a few days. Larvae enter the carrion but they do not feed, instead both parents feed then with regurgitated liquid food, they will feed and defend the larvae until they are fully grown (although in some members of the genus larger larvae may be able to feed without parental assistance). Larval development is rapid; they pass through three instars within a few weeks and then enter the soil to pupate, this stage lasts about a week during which time the adults will leave. Fresh adults may remain to feed before dispersing but it is thought that breeding cannot occur until they have overwintered. Adults are mostly nocturnal, they fly well and can detect carrion from three kilometres, they are also strongly attracted to light and so specimens may occur at apparently atypical sites. There is evidence that adults will fly to larger carcasses to feed but they will actively seek out smaller carrion for breeding purposes. The best way to record the species is with carrion-baited pitfall and flight-interception traps, although running lights can also be productive, but these should be used with caution and once the species is discovered any trapping should be stopped.
12-22 mm. Very typical of the genus, large and robust, black with two red bands on each elytron, pronotum with long golden pubescence on all margins, legs black or with dark brown tarsi. Antennal club bicoloured; the first segment black, the rest reddish (may darken in older specimens). Hind tibiae more-or-less straight along the inner margin. This combination of characters will separate vestigator from our other members of the genus.