These beetles are known as "carrion beetles", being usually associated with decaying animal matter. There is a considerable range in food preferences of both the adult beetles and larvae. Several species associated with ants, others develop in decaying fungi, many feed on a combination of animal matter and insect larvae, and a small number of species seem to be obligate predators of other insects. Occasionally a species is found that subsists almost entirely on snails (Clausen 1940/62). Among silphids having a mixed diet, the insect prey consists most of dipterous larvae, mainly those of blowflies that are present in decaying flesh. The beetles will attack many other insects that frequent carcasses, however.
Adults of Xylodrepa quadripunctata L. in Europe are arboreal and seemingly restricted to a predatory role, their favored food being mostly smooth-skinned caterpillars, sawfly larvae, aphids and other insects inhabiting foliage. However, the larvae feed only on the ground. An effort was made to introduce X. quadripunctata into the United States for biological control of gypsy moth (Clausen 1940/62).