Our Dermestid Beetle Starter Colonies contain large numbers of Dermestes maculatus beetles and larvae, which are well known for their ability to strip flesh from bone. This is the species taxidermists, museums, and universities use for skeleton cleaning and specimen preparation. Of all the insects in the world, Dermestid beetles are the best at cleaning bones and creating immaculate skeletons.
But you don’t have to be a professional to use Dermestid beetles for carcass cleaning. Anyone with bones they want stripped of carrion can use them. Common DIY projects include reptiles and other small animals, skulls found in the wild, and even pet remains. Customers have used our Dermestid beetles to clean the bones of many animals, including bears, deer, horses, mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes.
Dermestid beetles and larvae only eat dead flesh and other tissue remains like cartilage. They ignore bones, and they won’t touch live animals. In addition to being efficient skeleton cleaners, these traits make them ideal enclosure scavengers for roach colonies. You can use Dermestid beetles in any insect colony that requires ongoing maintenance.
Each Starter Colony contains a mix of juvenile and adult Dermestes maculatus, aka hide beetles, skin beetles, leather beetles, and our favorite — flesh-eating beetles.
Our Dermestids are professional-quality insects bred for the purposes mentioned above. As such, we house them in clean, isolated colonies and feed them only clean meat.
As scavengers, Dermestid beetles and larvae are very efficient carcass cleaners. They can remove all the flesh from a prepared skeleton within days or weeks. When conditions are right (warm, dark, and humid), they rapidly increase their population to meet the current food supply.
Beetles and larvae both have voracious appetites. They can handle anything you give them — from massive carcasses with the biggest bones in the world to the smallest and most fragile. Dermestids have been used to strip massive whale bodies, clean small bird and reptile remains, and everything in-between.
And while they enthusiastically devour dead flesh, they ignore bone. All that remains when the insects finish eating are clean bones. While they may need some processing for color, assembly, and preservation, the insects do all the soft tissue removal work.
What size to start with?
Our Starter Colonies are appropriate for all taxidermy projects, large and small. The main consideration in deciding what size colony to start with is time. When provided the right conditions, even the smallest quantity of Dermestids will grow large, but it will take longer for a small colony to reach critical mass than a larger one.
Generally, remains the size of small birds or reptiles can start with any colony size. Projects the size of an average cat will go faster with at least a medium starter size, and large skulls and animals the size of dogs or larger should start with large. These are general recommendations. Any number of insects will grow over time when given the right environment.
Dermestid Beetles as Cleaner Crews
Dermestid beetles can live alongside Dubia roaches and function as cleaner crews.
A Dermestid starter colony might be a good choice for roach keepers who want to establish Dermestids in multiple roach bins by adding some to each and allowing them to populate the enclosures over time.
Dermestid Beetle Starter Colony Care
Maintaining a Dermestid Beetle colony is relatively easy. However, they require some care and attention after the initial enclosure setup. You can read about Dermestid beetle care and maintenance here. While geared toward people who use them as cleaner crews in roach colonies, the information is also relevant for taxidermy and other applications.