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.
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.
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
Flesh-eating beetles, or dermestids, are harmless creatures that eat flesh off animal carcasses, including those of humans. The larvae of dermestid beetles feed continuously until all that’s left is bone. This process is known as skeletonization and is often used by taxidermists, museum curators, and law enforcement to aid forensic work—the bugs can clear bones of flesh to expose evidence, which can be destroyed by harsh chemicals. Better yet, you can find bugs for sale via providers such as Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy!
Skull cleaning is a process in which the skull of a hunted or trapped animal, or one that has expired due to natural causes, is prepared for display. It is an important step in taxidermy. However, it can be time-consuming, messy, and unpleasant, depending on the method used. Some insects naturally eat the flesh of dead animals, simplifying the process. They can be easily acquired by ordering bugs for sale at Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy.
Mounted figures and skulls of birds, small mammals, and large game represent the art of taxidermy, or the preparing, stuffing, and mounting of skins of animals. Records of the practice date back to the 16th century. The art form has survived into the modern day to serve many different purposes. Some taxidermists prefer the skin and fur intact; others aim to prepare complete skulls, which our dermestid beetles for sale at Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy can provide.