Dermestid beetles are a natural and nearly hands-free way to clear Dubia roach bins of dead roach corpses. They don’t do all the work, but these flesh-eating insects tend to reduce and even eliminate problems related to moisture and bacteria build-up in captive roach colonies.
As you may know, the Dermestid beetle (aka hide beetle or carrion beetle) and its larvae are famous for their ability to strip dead animal flesh from bone. And they do this while completely ignoring living animals. Dermestids are superb roach colony cleaners, and many experienced Dubia roach keepers appreciate their service. We surely do.
Related reading: Get help deciding if you need cleaner crews »
Why Cleaner Crews Are Needed in Dubia Colonies
Roaches die as a matter of course. In captive Dubia colonies, roach remains can quickly cause problems given the dark, warm, moist environment in which they’re kept. Dead roaches not only smell bad, but their rotting corpses attract bacteria, mold, and nuisance insects like flies and mites.
Enter Dermestid beetle cleaner crews. Dermestid beetles and larvae live alongside the roaches in the colony, consuming dead roach carcasses. Ideally, they do this before the carcasses accumulate and cause problems. This symbiotic relationship works very well for many roach-keepers, including ourselves. We find a big difference in the work required to maintain a colony with cleaner crews compared to one without them.
Each Kit comes with enough Dermestid larvae, pupae, and beetles (around 20 total) to immediately establish a group of Dermestid beetle cleaner crews in your roach colony. You’ll probably get some microscopic eggs too, which should hatch in 1-3 days.
NOTE: The mix of beetles, larvae, and pupae reflects the colony from which they’re collected. This mix varies.
How Many Do You Need?
Dermestid beetles breed quickly, so large numbers aren’t necessary. To establish Dermestid cleaners in a Dubia roach colony, you just need healthy stock and a little time. One or two Kits are usually enough for a single roach colony.
The only drawback to starting with one Kit versus two in a large colony is that it takes longer to reach full cleaning capacity. However, Dermestidae are prolific eaters and fast breeders. When the environment is right, their numbers will increase to meet the food supply. Given a modest-size Dubia roach colony, this should take a few weeks.
If your Dubia colony is small, you can still add Dermestid beetle cleaner crews. They can live a long time with little food in a small roach colony. You can supplement with a small amount of dog food, beef jerky, or raw meat until the roach population grows. It’s easy to keep Dermestids alive until your roach colony is large enough to sustain them. It just takes a little effort.
See the chart below for a sense of the cleaning ability of our Dermestid Beetle Cleaner Crew Kits. You can start with as many as you like, but as mentioned, one or two Kits (plus a little time) is all the average cleaning job needs.
For reference: Adult Dermestid beetles lay eggs immediately. Eggs hatch in three or four days. Larvae reach sexual maturity in a few weeks. Dermestid beetles live for about three months. Each adult female lays around 300 eggs in her lifetime.
Dermestid Kit Capacities
|Roaches/Bin Size||# of Kits|
|0 – 500 & bin up to 4 sq.ft.||1|
|500 – 1,000 & bin up to 4 sq. ft.||1|
|1,000+ & bin up to 4 sq. ft.||2|
|0 – 500 & bin > 4 sq. ft.||1|
|500+ & bin > 4 sq. ft.||2|
NOTE: Square feet is “floor space”, not volume. To calculate, multiple length x width in feet, i.e. (1.5 ft. x 2.5 ft.) = 3.75 sq.ft., or length x width in inches, then divide by 144 (1 sq.ft), i.e. (18 in. x 30 in.)/144 = 3.75 sq.ft.
A Note About Flight
Dermestid beetles can fly when the temperature reaches about 95°F. If your Dubia roach colony gets this hot, you may need a lid if you don’t want the beetles to fly away. However, you don’t have to worry if your Dubia roaches are feeders or if you keep them below the Dermestid beetle fly-away temperature.
Temperature Control During Shipping
Regarding shipping, Dermestid beetles and larvae are a little less fragile than Dubia roaches. Please see our heat & cold pack page for more information as well as suggestions on when to use a heat or cold pack.
Dermestid Care Instructions
Maintaining a group of Dermestid beetle cleaner crews inside a roach colony is usually an easy task that requires little effort. However, there are a few things to watch out for. Nothing earth-shattering, but a little information upfront can help ensure the process goes smoothly.
To that end, we’ve written down some thoughts in our Dermestid cleaner crew “how-to”. It provides instructions and explains what to expect, as well as how to manage Dermestid beetles alone or in combination with other cleaner crew species.
Dermestid beetles are efficient cleaner crews in Dubia roach colonies, but they could be considered pests in certain situations. Please be sure you understand the risks before buying these and other insects.
The Dermestid beetle (sometimes called the carpet, carrion, and larder beetle) belongs to the Dermestidae family. It is a carnivorous insect that eats dead, decaying animal flesh. This makes them excellent cleaner crews for Dubia colonies. They eliminate roach carcasses that would otherwise decompose, smell, and become hosts for bacteria and fungi.
We use Dermestid beetles in our Dubia colonies because they reduce the time we have to spend cleaning bins. They also act as an insurance policy against damage that can result from pathogens that accompany the build-up of decaying animal matter. Maintaining Dermistids requires a little effort, but this effort is far less than fixing problems after they occur.
About Dermestid Beetles
These beetles are Dermestes maculatus, which are the same ones taxidermists, museums, and forensic investigators use to remove flesh from bone. The adult form of this insect is a small, black, carnivorous, flesh-scavenging beetle. Immature larvae have small, hair-like projections along the length of their body and range from microscopic in size to about a quarter inch. Both the beetles and the larvae eat dead roaches.
Because they’re only interested in dead flesh, Dermestid beetle cleaner crews go about their lives without paying much attention to the roaches. That is, of course, until the roaches die. Then, all bets are off, and the beetles and larvae aggressively devour them.
Importantly, Dubia roaches don’t seem to mind sharing space with Dermestid beetles. We’ve seen no evidence of colony stress from the relationship. In fact, the relationship is so symbiotic that we often see Dubia and Dermestes quietly huddled together in small groups, and the beetles use the roaches for cover when we disturb the colony.
Dermestid beetles are indigenous to North America. They are common in the wild, with beetles and larvae found in or near animal carcasses. However, wild-caught insects often harbor mites. We recommend buying cultivated Dermestid beetles from a healthy, captive colony rather than collecting them from roadkill or other dead animals you find in the wild. We guarantee that our Dermestid beetles are free of mites and other pests.