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?
Not all these beetles are predisposed to feeding on dead animal meat. Some prefer grains, seeds, or even woolen carpets. Although not all are the perfect skull cleaners, here is a look at some common types.
Attagenus unicolor, or the black carpet beetle, is the most commonly found species of carpet beetle in the U.S. It thrives in humid areas, especially in southern states, where the eggs often become moldy. The preferred food type is the protein keratin found in feathers and animal hair. The beetles may also go after grains, cereals, and synthetic fabrics. They may even devour dried specimens in insect collections.
The larval stage of black carpet beetles can last from three months to two years. This process is rather long to grow a colony and, for example, help with cleaning a deer skull. Besides, these beetles prefer other things around your home.
The genus Anthrenus consists of small, colorful carpet beetles with scaly patterns. Relatively inactive, the larvae tend to accrue in limited areas and feed on dead insects, skin flakes, fur, and feathers. They may also eat dry pet food, hair, and wool blankets, or clothes in homes. This carpet beetle often sets up colonies in attics or behind walls where dead insects are often plentiful.
Are these guys good for taxidermy? Not really, as the larvae aren’t nearly aggressive enough to quickly clean up a skull. In the wild, the beetles are often found feeding in abandoned bee and wasp nests and, besides, adults are avid flyers, which is not a quality preferred in flesh-eating beetles.
Trogoderma, or the khapra beetle, is considered one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.1 A preference for hiding in cracks and crevices enables it to tolerate insecticides. It can also survive for long periods of time without food or on food with little moisture. General scavengers, khapra beetles often seek out seeds, herbs, and spices and will even feed on nuts and cocoa.
The species continues to grow and develop. There can also be more than one generation annually. However, the life cycle can be highly variable with changes in diet and temperature. A preference for plant-based materials also makes it less than ideal for taxidermy.
The Dermestes species, which is known for its taste for meat, is highly efficient at scavenging. Its hairy larvae feed on animal-based materials, including hair, feathers, skin, dried meat, and even dried pet food and dairy products. These larvae, which range from dark reddish-brown to pale yellow-brown, have jaws strong enough to eat through wood.
Dermestes are often associated with damage to dried meats and fish. For this reason, taxidermists, museum zoology departments, and even forensic investigators use these beetles to clean bones. Larvae feed and grow over five to six weeks, while females lay eggs after two months, so growing large, viable colonies can be done in a reasonable amount of time.
For information, to purchase beetles, or to order skull cleaning services, contact Kodiak Bones & Bugs Taxidermy today.