When it comes to preserving animals, either using traditional taxidermist methods or creating animal skulls (European mounts) and articulated skeletons, the process can present some challenges even for the most skilled taxidermists. The process of taxidermy involves preserving the animal in some form, whether that includes using its hide or skin or just its bones.
You got your trophy buck or bass after applying your patience and skill. Now you want to display your specimen in its natural form. Mounting your specimen takes an additional level of skill, but do-it-yourself taxidermy is possible. Here are some dos and don’ts for the process, but first we’ll provide a background on what taxidermy is.
When most people think of taxidermy, they imagine stuffed animals or skulls. With modern taxidermy, dermestid beetles are the choice for skull cleaning. This field hasn’t been only about cleaning your trophy. It’s been the technique for studying animals, taking measurements, and cataloging species for many years. Continue reading for interesting facts about taxidermy you probably didn’t know.
The art of taxidermy to preserve a trophy you bagged while hunting requires a skilled hand and a little help from nature. The thought of preserving some part of the trophy animal you bagged appeals to many hunters of all ages. You could choose a full-body mount, head-mount, or European mount.
Over the years, people have relied on different methods to preserve animal specimens. Harsh chemicals, boiling, composting, and other methods can damage bones. Dermestid beetles, which are relatively new in taxidermy, have become one of the most popular methods of preserving skulls and other animal bones. They are effective eaters and leave behind perfectly preserved specimens that can last without degradation.
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.