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Section M

Silphidae- The Carrion beetles


There is not much I can do to improve the INCREDIBLE information dispensed by the 

Silphidae recording scheme. They have even written a snazzy Key to all the UK species HERE


There is now a newly published, and very affordably priced Book containing, both these and another group of beetles: The Histerids.

Not only does it contain wonderful photographs and keys for all of the UK's species (not just those attracted to light) It also has geographical status and detailed species descriptions! It can be purchased HERE 


We have a decent number of species in the UK but only these species routinely occur at light traps.

Instead of reinventing the wheel I have (with permission) posted the resources freely available on the web and will supplement that information accordingly. 


Taking Photos


In addition to a good dorsal shot try and get the following features in focus to ensure a full species identification can be achieved.

Antennal clubs                                Hind legs      

Necrodes littoralis Vs Nicrophorus humator

Both huge and black these species are often confused with one another, the good news is that they are really easy to separate with practice, with these two the shape of the hind legs and antennae are integral to splitting the two.

 Necrodes have longer hind legs with expanded femora, giving a frog-legged appearance, and antennae that appear like a string of beads that gradually expand in size towards the tip.

In comparison, Nicrophorus humator has a less widened hind femora ad had clubbed antennae, like the rest of the more charismatic Nicrophorus



Necrodes littoralis



Nicrophorus humator



ID Features


Long, hind, frog legs

15.0-25.0 mm

Antennae gradually expanded and bead like 

Jan-Feb/ May-October



ID Features

Shorter, standard looking hind legs

18.0-26.0 mm

Antennae Clubbed


May-October & December 



Phosphuga atrata 

This used to be know by its symonym, Silpha atrata however its now formally accepted name (which has been in use in Europe) is P. atrata. It comes in two forms, Red and black 

ID Features

  • 10-15mm

  • Red and black forms (both pictured)

  • Protruding rectangular head 

  • Gradually expanded antenna 

  • Semicircular pronotum 

  • Ridged elytra 

Widespread, common 


Orange is the new black

For the remainder of the Nicrophorus I would recommend using

The Silphid recording scheme key 

Assuming you have followed the above advice for required photo angles it is a faily straight forward key and is one of the first keys I would recommend to beginners.

Remember to log your findings on irecord



Nicrophorus vespilloides  D. Asaw


The odd one out 


Panagaeus cruxmajor

ID Features

  • 7.4-8.8mm

  • pronotum wider that long (transverse) with rounded sides

  • small head in comparison to the body and pronotum

  • Antennae long and thread like (filliform)

  • black head and pronotum 

  • Elytra with 4 clear, square, orange markings

  • Pronotum with punctures of one size

  • March - April, August, October

  • On soft soils near fresh water

VERY RARE- please iRecord

An incredibly rare, yet obvious beetle, that famously caused Charles Darwin some grief when collecting.

There are two species of Pangagaeus in the UK, however the other

(P. bipustulatus)  has a pronotum that is as wide as long (quadrate) , is associated with dry sandy/gravelly soils, is on average smaller  (6.5-7.5mm) and has 2 different puncture sizes on the pronotum

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