Common sexton beetle

Common Sexton Beetle

Common Sexton Beetle ©Richard Burkmarr

Common sexton beetle

Scientific name: Nicrophorus vespilloides
The Common sexton beetle is one of several burying beetle species in the UK. An undertaker of the animal world, it buries dead animals like mice and birds, and feeds and breeds on the corpses.

Species information


Length: up to 3cm

Conservation status


When to see

April to October


The Common sexton beetle is a 'burying beetle': these beetles are the undertakers of the animal world, burying dead and decaying animals, such as mice and small birds. Common sexton beetles can be found wherever there are corpses for them to feed on, and often fly into lights at night. Males and females pair-up at the corpse and will fight off rivals to take charge of it and bury it. The female lays her eggs on, or beside, the buried body and the resulting larvae eat the rotting corpse. Burying beetles are unusual in the beetle-world because both males and females continue to care for the larvae after they hatch - feeding them from the corpse. Their antennae are equipped with receptors that are able to detect rotting bodies from metres, even kilometres, away.

How to identify

The Common sexton beetle is a chunky, flattened and squarish beetle, with bright black-and-orange patterning on its wing cases. There are several species of burying beetle in the UK which can be difficult to tell apart.



Did you know?

Sexton beetles get their name from the sexton of the church whose duty it was to look after the graveyard - a fitting name given their love of corpses!

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.