Silphidae
   In the UK a small family of very distinctive species; they will be recognised by their large size and often distinctive colouration. Many species feed on carcasses and the larvae of other insects associated with them, carrion left out to attract them will not disappoint. They are strong fliers and very sensitive to the odour of decaying flesh. Adults are usually found in pairs and , until they have buried their carcass, will drive off others. Fur or feathers are removed before burial and these indicate where the insects may be unearthed. After burying the carcass a female Nicrophorus will dig an adjacent tunnel or small gallery in which to lay eggs, around 15 in the case of Nicrophorus vespillo, then return to the carcass to feed. Development is rapid, larvae hatch after a week or so and undergo hypermetamorphosis, the first, second and third instars being distinct. At first they are fed liquid food by the female but after 5 or 6 hours can feed themselves. For a while after the first or second moults they are again dependant on the mother for food. Fully grown larvae burrow horizontally away from the feeding chamber, up to 30cm., to construct earthen pupal chambers. In Nicrophorus the pupal stage lasts about 2 weeks.
   Other genera are carrion feeders or predacious at carrion e.g. Thanatophilus and Oiceoptoma. Some Silpha species feed on snails while Dendroxena feed nocturnally on Lepidoptera larvae on trees.
   7 genera, 21 species. 9-30mm. Head narrower, and often very much so, than pronotum. Mandibles very robust and often produced forward. Eyes prominent and well developed e.g. Nicrophorus. Antennae 11 segmented with 2nd joint sometimes very small, symetrically clubbed (cf. Lucanidae, Scarabaeidae) or distally thickened. Basal joint elongate but not well developed into a scape (cf. Histeridae).
   Pronotum variously sculptured but usually strongly explanate, bordered and narrowed anteriorly. Front margin smoothly rounded e.g. Silpha or emarginate e.g. Aclypea and Thanatophilus.
   Elytra truncate in Nicrophilus and Necrodes leaving 3-4 abdominal segments exposed but entire in most British species. Usually with well developed longitudinal ridges, coarsely punctate and variously pubescent (well developed in Aclypea)
   Legs robust, tibia with outwardly facing terminal spines (not present in Necrodes), these especially well developed on protibia which may be developed for fossorial habits. Tarsi 5-5-5 with well developed claws.


Dendroxena
quadrimaculata

Necrodes
littoralis

Nicrophorus
humator

Nicrophorus
vespillo

Nicrophorus
vespilloides

Silpha
atrata

Silpha
atrata

Silpha
atrata

Silpha
laevigata

Thanatophilus
rugosus