The beetles are attracted to the odors associated with early decay and are often the first on the scene. Once an individual arrives at the carcass it will wait until a mate arrives and the pair will then proceed to dig out underneath the small bird or rodent until it is covered. Once this is done, the food item will be stripped of it's skin, fur or feathers. The happy little pair will then chew the flesh and cover it with salivary and anal secretions to help preserve it from decay, whilst compressing the corpse into a tight ball. Eggs are laid and when they hatch, the female (or some sources say either parent) will regurgitate liquids for the small larvae until they are able to partake in the yummy preserved food ball. They mature within six to eight days, when they will leave the feeding chamber and pupate somewhere in the vicinity. Leech (1934) does some good 'ol natural history observations that indicate that one of the parents remain on the meat ball while the larvae are feeding and describes it as "a frightened hen and her brood of chicks". He surmises that they are defending this food source from other carrion beetles or fly maggots. **
The life history between the different species of Nicrophorus (Greek for 'carrier of the dead') are generally similar, following the above pattern, although this . I believe that this is Nicrophorus defodiens. A few sources I found say that this species doesn't bury their prey but covers it with leaves.
There was one very cool study done on niche differences near Bella Bella . The authors looked at the diets of two species of Nicrophorus that co-existed within a salmon-bearing watershed. In this location one species, N. investigator ate 86.5% salmon, while this species, N defodiens lived on shrews and songbirds, 100%. Which is a good thing as Leaning Oaks is short on salmon! (Hocking et.al. 2007)
** Breaking news!! See installment #295 for the REAL story on what happens to the fly eggs and maggots!