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 carnivorous insects tend to reduce or 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. This makes Dermestids superb roach colony cleaners, and their service is much appreciated by many Dubia roach-keepers.
Related reading: Get help deciding if you need cleaner crews »
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 and host 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 before they have a chance to accumulate and cause problems. This works very well for many roachkeepers, including ourselves. There is 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/or beetles (around 20) to immediately establish a group of Dermestid beetle cleaner crews in your roach colony. You’ll probably get some eggs too, though we can’t say for sure how many because they’re microscopic. Eggs hatch in 1-3 days.
NOTE: The mix of beetles, larvae and pupae in each kit reflects the mix in the colony from which they’re collected. This varies.
Dermestid beetles breed quickly, so large numbers aren’t necessary. To establish Dermestid cleaners in a Dubia roach colony, all you need is healthy stock and a little time. One or two Kits is usually enough for a single 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 population rises to meet the available food supply. This usually takes a few weeks.
If you don’t have a large colony yet, you can still add Dermestid beetle cleaner crews. They can live a long time with little food in a sparsely populated colony. You can also supplement with a small amount of dog food, beef jerky, or raw meat until the roach population grows. It’s fairly easy to keep Dermestid beetles and larvae 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 just three or four days. Larvae reach sexual maturity in a few weeks. Dermestid beetles live about three months.
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. This means you may need a lid for your Dubia roach colony if you don’t want the beetles to fly away. However, you don’t have to worry if your Dubia roaches are feeders or you keep them below the Dermestid beetle fly-away temperature.
Temperature Control During Shipping
With respect to 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 requiring little effort. However, there are a few things to watch out for. Nothing earth shattering, but a little information up front can help ensure that 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. These carnivorous insects specialize in eating dead, decaying animal flesh. This makes them excellent cleaner crews for Dubia colonies because they eliminate roach carcasses that would otherwise decompose, smell, and become a host for bacteria and fungi. We use them in our colonies partly because they reduce the amount of time we have to spend cleaning bins, and partly because they provide us with a sort of “insurance policy” against damage that can result from pathogens that accompany the build-up of decaying animal matter.
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. They too eat dead flesh.
The adult female Dermestid beetle lays her eggs in moist locations, typically on or near food. In our colony, that usually means inside roach carcasses. Upon hatching, hungry larvae emerge and immediately search for food.
Because they’re only interested in dead flesh, Dermestid beetle cleaner crews go about their lives without much attention to the roaches with whom they share space. That is, of course, until roaches die. Then, all bets are off and both 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.
The Dermestid beetle is indigenous to North America. They are common in the wild, and beetles and larvae can sometimes be found in or near dead animal carcasses. However, wild-caught insects often harbor mites. For this reason we strongly 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. Our Dermestid beetles are of course mite-free.
The Dermestes reproductive cycle is short by necessity. It takes only about seven weeks to go from egg to adult. Once mature, adult beetles live about 90 days. While they have wings, they only fly at temperatures above 95°F or so. They are opportunistic feeders that rely on food sources that may be gone in just a week or two, so their reproductive cycle needs to be fast.
Females may wait until conditions are to their liking before laying eggs. This means that within a Dubia roach colony, the beetle population will establish much faster than the roaches. If you have 100 roaches, for example, the Dermestid beetle population will stabilize around the rate of die-off of 100 roaches. More roach carcasses become available as your roach population increases, and the Dermestes population will then adjust to the new food supply.