You took the time to scout out the best hunting spot to bag your trophy game animal. After you bagged it, you wanted to preserve its skull to create a skull mount to hang on your wall. You may have decided to also get the full taxidermy treatment and preserve the entire head.
When you want to display your trophy game head as a European skull mount, there are several different methods you could use to remove the flesh. You may even have heard of your friends telling you about the horrors they experienced using certain methods or the painstaking time it took to clean the skull.
You’ve caught a furbearer trophy, but now comes the hard part. A thorough skull cleaning is needed to properly display it. Providing one of the most effective ways to deflesh a specimen, a dermestid beetle colony can give you the results you need.
Here is a look into how cleaning small mammal skulls works:
What Are Dermestid Beetles?
They are beetles that eat the flesh off bones. In fact, dermestid larvae eat only the flesh of deceased animals. Thorough and effective, they avoid requiring tools to clean skulls, which can damage delicate nasal bones and other structures. Using flesh-eating beetles is often the preferred method of preparing skulls for display in museums and universities.
Dermestids are just a few millimeters long and have a lifespan of about four to five months. Their larvae are about the size of a pinhead and molt several times over five to six weeks, before burrowing and entering the pupa stage. They are effective eaters, but it often takes several thousand to consume the flesh of a large skull (you can get by with a colony of 300+ beetles for a single small skull).
How Dermestid Beetles Are Used for Skull Cleaning
Whether you’re a collector, hunter, or taxidermist, skull cleaning has many benefits. Bones are fully preserved and there are no traces of flesh to leave behind foul odors (except when the flesh is being consumed). Also, the beetles do not carry diseases. There is no weakening of bones or teeth either.
While Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy can process a sample you mail in, you can also buy beetles online to grow your own colony. Establishing a colony of flesh-eating larvae takes just a few weeks. Given the beetles’ lifecycle, you can feasibly create a self-sustaining colony of larvae and viable adults in a few months.
To accomplish this, you’ll need:
A place to house the beetles, such as a large container, plastic tote, or aquarium.
Substrates like shredded paper, mammal bedding, and Styrofoam for them to burrow in.
Ample air circulation with a tight seal to keep beetles in and pests out.
Dermestids also need proper temperature and light to thrive. They are most active when it is from 65°F to 85°F. While they do fine on dried meat from your specimen, you can feed them meat scraps and fish in between cleanings.
Professional Cleaning with Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy
Of the flies, ants, wasps, and other flesh-eating insects in the U.S., dermestid beetles are the most effective for skull cleaning. We can safely ship beetles to you. Or, you can ship your trophy to us, fleshing it as much as possible, freezing it, and wrapping it in plastic bags. Each trophy receives an identification tag so we can track it. Once it is completed, the treated skull will then be carefully packaged and shipped via a method you choose; no beetles or larvae remain in the skull.
To learn more about using dermestid beetles with small furbearers and small mammals, and ethical taxidermy in general, contact us online or call 907-942-2847.
You have your bear hunt schedule and are looking forward to bagging your prize bear or at least a very large one. After your bear hunt and bagging your game, you will definitely want to keep the black bear skull, Kodiak bear skull, or another bear skull as a trophy to show off to friends and family.
The mention of flesh-eating Dermestid beetles can have people screaming for their lives and running for the hills. They automatically assume these beetles will feast on living flesh and quickly devour a person. Fortunately, this is just a big myth propagated by horror movies and other such myths.
Most hunters have prized trophies they want to give the full taxidermy treatment and preserve. For other game, skull cleaning and creating a skull mount provides another option for creating a stunning mount. The process to create a skull mount is not that difficult when using the best method, which is using dermestid beetles.
Take care of your beetle colony, and they will eat meat down to the bone. It sounds simple, but the truth is, some beetles are better than others. When it comes to taxidermy, dermestid beetles are the preferred choice, but did you know there are different types?
Whether you’re a taxidermist who needs clean skulls, a hunter looking for a fresh trophy, or an artist or museum curator, dermestid beetles are efficient and thorough. These beetles used for taxidermy clean skulls and prevent damage from boiling or chemicals. You’ll need anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of beetles. To maintain a large colony, you need the conditions for beetles to thrive throughout their life cycle.
Dermestid beetles are often used in taxidermy, as their larvae are efficient scavengers that feed on dead tissue until there’s nothing left but bone. Yet buying bugs for sale and letting these critters run free isn’t going to yield the desired results. Colonies need proper care to thrive. You’ll need a minimum of 300 beetles to get started, and 1,000 to 5,000 to achieve skull cleaning for specimens such as deer or bear.1