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. The traditional method of skull cleaning (putting it briefly) involves boiling, removing soft tissue, and scooping out the brain.

If this skull cleaning process seems tedious, stinky, or revolting, it’s not the only method available. You could leave the bones outside to let nature do its thing. An even better way, and using nature to your advantage, is to get skull cleaning dermestid beetles involved.

What Are Dermestid Beetles?

Dermestid beetles survive on eating dead animal flesh. In their larval stage, these creatures consume the meat and other tissues that can be hard to remove with tools. Boiling skulls or using sharp tools can destroy delicate features such as nasal bones.

Compared to other skull cleaning services, using beetles totally preserves the animal’s skull.

Skull cleaning with beetles is often the preferred method because it:

  • Leaves no unpleasant odors
  • Avoids intrusion of emulsified fats
  • Does not weaken bone structures
  • Doesn’t loosen or crack teeth
  • Won’t shrink skulls as boiling can

How Do I Care for Dermestid Beetles?

Dermestid beetles don’t carry diseases and will not bite. You don’t need a permit to use the beetles, or even to raise them. As the larvae grow, they’ll need material to burrow into. Old mattress cotton or Styrofoam is a suitable material.

The beetles also need air, so you want to make sure air is circulating around the container you store them in. The temperature should be kept between 65°F and 85°F, but try to keep it below 80°F, at which point the beetles will be able to fly. Keep the environment dark, as this is when they’re most active.1

The good thing is that the beetles don’t need food except for the material you want them to clean for you. Just keep things dry to prevent mites. Check for fly eggs before the material is added, to prevent fly infestations while the beetles feed.

Read more about How to Care for Dermestid Beetles

How Do I Order Dermestid Beetles?

deer skullFor a single skull cleaning, the size of your order depends on the size of the specimen.

Around 300+ beetles can clean a small skull. You’ll need 1,000 or more for a bear or deer skull. If you’re running a small taxidermy business, around 5,000 or more is recommended to support production scale operations.2

Fortunately, buying flesh-eating beetles online is easy. At Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy, beetles are raised in a safe location, free from other insect invaders.

Instructions on getting started, maintaining and growing a colony, and preparing and cleaning skulls are also provided. We ship via Priority Mail to ensure prompt delivery.

Order today to buy beetles online, or contact us for more information.