Carrion beetles in the genus Nicrophorus rear their offspring on decomposing carcasses where larvae are exposed to a diverse microbiome of decomposer bacteria. Parents coat the carcass with antimicrobial secretions prior to egg hatch (defined as Pre-Hatch care) and also feed regurgitated food, and potentially bacteria, to larvae throughout development (defined as Full care). Here we partition the roles of pre- and post-hatch parental care in the transmission and persistence of culturable symbiotic bacteria to larvae. Using three treatment groups (Full-Care, Pre-Hatch care only, and No Care), we found that larvae receiving Full-Care are predominantly colonized by bacteria resident in the maternal gut, while larvae receiving No Care are colonized exclusively with bacteria from the carcass. More importantly, larvae receiving only Pre-Hatch care were also predominantly colonized by maternal bacteria; this result indicates that parental treatment of the carcass, including application of bacteria to the carcass surface, is sufficient to ensure symbiont transfer even in the absence of direct larval feeding. Later in development, we found striking evidence that pupae undergo a aposymbiotic stage, after which they are recolonized at eclosion with bacteria shed in the moulted larval cuticle and on the wall of the pupal chamber. Our results clarify the importance of pre-hatch parental care for symbiont transmission in Nicrophorus vespilloides, and suggest that these bacteria successfully outcompete decomposer bacteria during larval and pupal gut colonization.