Forensically important sap beetles (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) of North America


  • Lauren Weidner
  • Gareth S. Powell


Omosita, Nitidula, carrion, Nitidulinae


The forensically relevant taxa of the family Nitidulidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) are reviewed and diagnosed. Specifically, two genera were identified as forensically important based on the shared feeding behavior on carrion (Nitidula and Omosita). In total, eight species are reported from North America, including a new country record for Omosita funesta Reitter. Collection records were compiled from 25 major institutions with major holdings from the USA and Canada and used to generate distribution maps for each species. The validity of Omosita nearctica Kirejtshuk was tested with molecular data (COI barcode region), and genetic distances were compared across several representative species for the group. Finally, a dichotomous key is provided for both Nitidula and Omosita at the species level, supplemented with dorsal habitus photographs of each species.


Abdell, D. H., Wasti, S. S, and G. C. Hartmann. 1982. Saprophagous arthropod fauna associated with turtle carrion. Appl. Ent. Zool. 17(3): 301–307.

Adair, T. W., and B. C. Kondratieff. 1996. The occurrence of Nitidula flavomaculata (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) on a human corpse. Entomol. News. 107(4): 233–236.

Anderson, G. S. and S. L. VanLaerhoven. 1996. Initial studies on insect succession on carrion in southwestern British Columbia. J. Forensic Sci. 41(4): 617–625.

Audisio, P. 1993. Coleoptera Nitidulidae-Kateretidae. Fauna d'Italia, vol. 32. Edizioni Calderini. Bologna, Italy.

Brower, A. V. 2006. Problems with DNA barcodes for species delimitation: ‘ten species’ of Astraptes fulgerator reassessed (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae). Syst. Biodivers. 4(2): 127–132.

Connell, W. A. 1984. Nearctic Nitidulidae: Synonymy and Additions since Parsons' Revision (Coleoptera). The Coleopterists Bulletin. 38(2): 160–164.

De Jong, G. D., and W. W. Hoback. 2006. Effect of investigator disturbance in experimental forensic entomology: succession and community composition. Med. Vet. Entomol. 20(2): 248–258.

Dodge, H. R. 1937. The occurrence of two European nitidulid beetles in Wisconsin. Entomol. News 48: 284.

Downie, N. M., and R. H. Arnett, Jr. 1996. The Beetles of Northeastern North America. Volume 2. Sandhill Crane Press, Gainesville, Florida.

Dury, C. 1902. A Revised list of the Coleoptera observed near Cincinnati, Ohio, with notes on localities, bibliographical references, and description of new species. Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History. 20: 107–196.

Habeck, D. H. 2002. Family 77: Nitidulidae, pp. 311–315. In R. H. Arnett, Jr., M. C. Thomas, P. E. Skelley, and J. H. Frank (eds.), American Beetles, Vol. 2. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL.

Hoang, D. T., Chernomor, O., Von Haeseler, A., Minh, B. Q., and L.S. Vinh. 2018. UFBoot2: improving the ultrafast bootstrap approximation. Mol. Biol. Evol. 35(2), 518–522.

Jelínek, J., Carlton, C. E., Cline, A. R., and R. A. B. Leschen. 2010. 10.26. Nitidulidae Latreille, 1802. In Leschen R. A. B., Beutel R. G., and J. F. Lawrence (eds.) Handbook of zoology, Vol. IV. Arthropoda: Insecta, Part 38. Coleoptera, beetles. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, Germany.

Kalyaanamoorthy, S., Minh, B. Q., Wong, T. K., von Haeseler, A., and L.S. Jermiin. 2017. ModelFinder: fast model selection for accurate phylogenetic estimates. Nat. Methods. 14(6): 587.

Katoh, K. and D. M. Standley. 2013. MAFFT multiple sequence alignment software version 7: improvements in performance and usability. Mol. Biol. Evol. 30(4): 772–780.

Kearse M., Moir R., Wilson A., Stones-Havas S., Cheung M., Sturrock S., Buxton S., Cooper A., Markowitz S., Duran C., Thierer T., Ashton B., Meintjes P., and A. Drummond. 2012. Geneious basic: an integrated and extendable desktop software platform for the organization and analysis of sequence data. Bioinformatics. 28: 1647–1649.

Kirejtshuk 1987. New taxa of the Nitidulidae (Coleoptera) of the East Hemisphere (part 1). Omosita nearctica sp. n., vicariant with Palaearctic O. colon L. Proc. Zool. Inst. USSR Ac. Sci. 164, 63–94 (in Russian).

Lord, W. D., and J. F. Burger. 1984. Arthropods associated with herring gull (Larus argentatus) and great black–backed gull (Larus marinus) carrion on islands in the Gulf of Maine. Environ. Entomol. 13(5): 1261–1268.

Majka, C. G., and A. R. Cline. 2006. Nitidulidae and Kateretidae (Coleoptera: Cucujoidea) of the Maritime provinces of Canada. I. New records from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The Canadian Entomologist. 138(3): 314–332.

McLeod, E. V. H. 2015. The effect of rainfall on blowfly (Calliphoridae) activity and decomposition on recently deposited animal remains. Doctoral dissertation, Boston University, Boston.

Monthei, D. R. 2009. Entomotoxicological and thermal factors affecting the development of forensically important flies. Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.

Nguyen, L. T., Schmidt, H. A., Von Haeseler, A., and B. Q. Minh. 2015. IQ-TREE: a fast and effective stochastic algorithm for estimating maximum-likelihood phylogenies. Mol. Biol. Evol. 32(1): 268–274.

Parsons, C. T. 1943. A revision of the Nearctic Nitidulidae (Coleoptera). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 92: 121–278.

Powell, G. S. 2015. A checklist of the sap beetle (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) fauna of Indiana, with notes on effective trapping methods. Insecta Mundi. 424: 1–9.

Powell, G. S., Cline, A. R., Duffy, A. G., and J. M. Zaspel. 2020. Phylogeny and reclassification of Carpophilinae (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae), with insights into the origins of anthophily. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 189: 1359–1369

Price, M. B. and D. K. Young. 2006. An annotated checklist of Wisconsin sap and short-winged flower beetles (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae, Kateretidae). Insecta Mundi. 109: 69–84.

Rambaut, A., and A. Drummond. 2008. FigTree: Tree figure drawing tool, version 1.2.2. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK.

Reed H. B. 1958. A study of dog carcass communities in Tennessee with special reference to the insects. Am. Midl. Nat. 59: 213–45.

Rodriguez III, W. C. 1982. Insect activity and its relationship to decay rates of human cadavers in East Tennessee. M.A. Thesis University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Rubinoff, D., Cameron, S., and K. Will. 2006. A genomic perspective on the shortcomings of mitochondrial DNA for “barcoding” identification. J. Hered. 97(6): 581–594.

Vogt, G. B. 1950. Occurrence and records of Nitidulidae. The Coleopterists Bulletin 4: 81–91.

Wang, Y., Wang, M., Hu, G., Xu, W., Wang, Y., and J. Wang. 2020. Temperature–dependent development of Omosita colon at constant temperature and its implication for PMImin estimation. J. Forensic and Leg. Med. 72:101946.

Watson, E. J., and C. E. Carlton. 2003. Spring succession of necrophilous insects on wildlife carcasses in Louisiana. J. Med. Entomol. 40(3): 338–347.

Watson, E. J., and C. E. Carlton. 2005. Insect succession and decomposition of wildlife carcasses during fall and winter in Louisiana. J. Med. Entomol. 42(2): 193–203.

Williams, R. N., M. S. Ellis, and S. Teraguchi. 1997. Nitidulidae (Coleoptera) survey in northeast Ohio. J. Entomol. Sci. 32: 204–211.

Zanetti, N. I., Visciarelli, E. C., and N. D. Centeno. 2013. Preliminary data on larval morphology and life cycle of Nitidula carnaria (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae), a species of forensic interest. Revista de la Sociedad Entomológica Argentina. 72: 3–4.




How to Cite

Weidner, L., & Powell, G. . (2023). Forensically important sap beetles (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) of North America. Journal of Forensic Entomology, 1. Retrieved from