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Well, these bugs were snug until I lifted up the bark they were snoozing under on a fallen tree at my local cemetery but, rest assured, I covered them back up again once I’d taken a few photos. These snug bugs are European carrion beetles (now Phosphuga atrata, originally Silpha atrata) and, yes, they do indeed feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals but are much more likely to be found chewing on snails, earthworms and insects.

When disturbed, or snoozing, they retract their head so you can’t really see in my photos that the head is relatively long and perfectly adapted for reaching into snail shells. Apparently, they spray their snail prey with a digestive fluid before eating it – I guess that’s a bit like us marinating meat before we cook it, and the adult beetles also have a poisonous bite, but it doesn’t affect humans.

160214 Carrion beetle  Phosphuga atrata(3)

Usually black but sometimes brown, the carrion beetle grows between 10 and 15mm long. It can be found throughout Britain and Europe but is seldom seen as it usually hunts at night and sleeps, as these were, under bark or in mossy areas during the day.

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