As kids, we get used to our parents telling us what to eat. “Drink your milk, and eat your fruits and vegetables, so you will become big and strong.” There’s not a lot of difference in the importance of eating healthy and getting proper nutrition for humans and insects. The burying beetle gives us a glimpse into its parenting skills with a very unusual diet for their young. Let’s take a look!
Researchers from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom discovered that the burying beetle has a unique diet plan for their young. While this isn’t a health plan humans will ever adopt, the scientist found that diet leads to healthier and larger beetle larvae. Adult beetles will search the landscape they inhabit for dead mice and birds and roll the decaying meat into neat balls that they bury next to their larvae to feast on upon hatching. These beetles also practice what they preach by eating the dead animals themselves and covering the balls in a “slime” they create internally, which slows decay and fosters microbe growth that’s beneficial to the larvae.
The scientists concluded this was one of the first instances of a beetle creating a signature “cocktail” to grow their larvae by adapting their internal bacteria to combat and add valuable microbes to the larvae growth process.
“Burying beetles mix a special growth potion for their young: one part dead mice, many parts bacteria” Science Magazine