Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

An Update on the “Improved Carrion Beetle Trap”

In Coleoptera on June 23, 2013 at 10:48 am

If you read my June 5 post, An Improved Carrion Beetle Trap, I’m sure you’ve been waiting anxiously, with bated breath (please pause, as I digress:)…

From the verb “bate”, alteration by aphesis of the verb “abate”, meaning ‘to reduce’ or ‘lessen’.(1)

Shakespeare is the first writer known to use it, in The Merchant of Venice, in which Shylock says to Antonio: “Shall I bend low and, in a bondman’s key, / With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness, / Say this …”. Nearly three centuries later, Mark Twain employed it in Tom Sawyer: “Every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale”.(2)

…to hear how the innovation worked out.

Let’s just say that some ideas look REAL good on paper.

The entire concept of the trap was to keep the trapper from having to come into contact with the rotten carrion bait.

I built five of the traps, consisting of small canning jars, with a mesh screen lid.  I broke one of them during construction, but placed the others out with my earlier-design traps.

Problem 1:  They don’t seem to attract many beetles.

Problem 2:  Flies seem to somehow penetrate the screen, laying eggs, and infesting the bait with HUGE numbers of maggots, which discourage the beetles.

Problem 3:  The bait containers are glass, with screened lids.  Unlike the previous traps, which are open at top and bottom, these traps collect rainwater, which leaves the bait in a MOST unappetizing condition.  The trapper (me) has been forced to drain the stinking carrion water from the traps, which usually results in the trapper (me) coming back to the house smelling like a disgusting WET corpse, rather than just a disgusting corpse, as with the earlier models.  Those versions, by the way, are catching a lot of bugs, although not the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) I’d hoped to find in Missouri.

I’ve still got the traps baited and catching a very few silphids; however, this was an idea whose time had not yet come.

For your information, here’s the collection data, through June 20, with 263 beetles identified:

Necrodes surinamensis (12)                             4.56%

Necrophila americana (127)                            8.29%

Nicrophorus americanus (0)                           0.00% (Endangered)

Nicrophorus marginatus (1)                             0.38%

Nicrophorus orbicollis (22)                               8.37%

Nicrophorus pustulatus (6)                               2.28%

Nicrophorus tomentosus (14)                           5.32%

Oiceptoma inaequale (45)                                 17.11%

Oiceptoma noveboracense (3)                           1.14%

Carabidae (16)                                                    6.08%

Cicindelidae (Cicindela sexguttata) (1)             0.38%

Scarabaeide (4)                                                   1.52%

Staphylinidae (12)                                              4.56%


1. Wiktionary (

2. World Wide Words (

  1. I was somehow hoping your introductory digression would get around to baited breath – breath that actually can attract carrion beetles. Don’t forget to floss!

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