Dermestid Beetle Care and Use for Taxidermy

How to Raise Dermestid Beetles for a Taxidermy Business

Dermestid Beetle Care and Information on Taxidermy Use

Shown Here the Dermestid beetle larvae cleaning an otter skull. Photo: theCCLC

Have you been thinking about purchasing dermestid beetles online? Want to know what steps you need to take to insure that your dermestid beetles colony goes far and can help you in your taxidermy business? If yes, read on. This article will talk about raising a dermestid colony for your own use, how to maintain it, where to buy, and more:

What are the Advantages of Dermestid Beetles in Taxidermy?

Dermestid flesh eating beetles may also be known as leather or hide beetles. These beetles can virtually strip the flesh from dead animal carcasses. As you can see, this can be very beneficial to anyone in the taxidermy business. You will no longer have to boil skulls, or work to strip the flesh off of dead carcasses. Instead, these beetles do it for you. What is even better is that they leave no yellow bones behind, unlike boiling.

What Kind of Bugs Will I Need to Purchase?

You will need to purchase a variety of dermestid beetles, ranging in age. If you only purchase adults, do not expect your colony to grow right away. If you only purchase larvae, expect your wait time for reproduction to be even longer (up to 2 months or so). You want a colony that is constantly growing. Look for an assortment of beetles in age, and be sure that the beetles are healthy (free of other pests) before you purchase them. Normally, you can purchase dermestid colonies that are healthy and diverse online for a very reasonable price.

What Kind of Environment Will I Need to Create?

Dermestid beetles are, thankfully, very easy to care for and maintain. There are a few things you will need to think about, however, when setting up your dermestid colony. Firstly, you will need to think about the environment of the space you are placing them in. Dermestids are most active in heat between 70-80 degrees, Fahrenheit. You will want to provide heat lamps to try and keep them as close to this temperature, as possible. Always keep them above freezing, as they will die if the temperature becomes that low. Be sure that the space you place them in is well-ventilated, as dermestid colonies can smell quite bad, especially large ones over a long period of time.


Housing for dermestids can be very simple. Use a hard plastic, metal, or glass container to keep them in. Make sure there is a mesh wiring or screw-down top to keep them contained (failure to do so in a taxidermy business means they may try to eat some of your work). Provide them with about a 1/2 inch of wood shavings at the bottom of their container. A foam block will go over these shavings, and a sponge will be placed on the foam block. Add your dermestids, spray with a fine mist of water at room temperature (make it moist, not wet), then leave them in a dark place for 24 hours.


Feeding dermestids is also quite easy. Simply place dermestid food (available online) between the wood shavings and the foam block. Eggs will appear on the sponge if your colony is maintained correctly, and these larvae, after they hatch, will eat the sponge. You may also place a small animal carcass in with the colony if you wish it to be cleaned. However, before doing this, you want to be sure that the skeleton has been somewhat stripped, the organs have been removed, and you have left it outside for a few hours. These beetles will not eat a fresh kill. For proper dermestid beetle care, you should check every few days to see if your beetles need more food, and if they have cleaned the skeleton. Remove it when it is clean, as they will continue to destroy connective tissue if you leave it for too long.

Will It Take a Lot of Work?

Dermestid beetle care is pretty easy. Establishing and caring for a colony should not take too much time, or be too much work. The key is to find the right balance of food and moisture in your colony for it to succeed. With this being said, you do want to check your colony every few days. You will also want to check for mites by taking samples and placing them under a microscope. Mites usually live in colonies that are too wet. They are normally found around the legs, or between the head and thorax. In some cases, once you have mites, you may have to start your colony over again.

Maintaining the Colony, Dermestid Beetle Care

Maintaining the colony consists of keeping the area where they are staying in well-ventilated (to prevent smell), keeping the heat lamps working so the colony stays at optimum temperature, and making sure that the colony is neither too moist, nor too dry. You will also want to be sure that they are receiving enough food, but not too much. This may seem like a difficult task, but finding the balance is not as hard as it may sound. Many businesses, institutions, museums, and scientists maintain their own dermestid beetle colonies.

How Long Before I Can Clean a Skull?

It may take a long while (and a whole lot of dermestids) to clean a skull of a large game animal. The smaller the animal, the fewer dermestid beetles you need. However, some big game may take thousands of dermestids to successfully clean. Start out very small, (perhaps with a bird), then work your way up.

Beware of Some Sellers

Some sellers may sell colonies that are infested with mites, or that are only composed of young larvae. Beware of these sellers. Always be sure you are buying a colony with a wide age range, as these are the best to purchase. Also be sure to check your dermestids when they first arrive to make sure they are not infested with mites. Mite infestation can eventually kill your colony. Be sure you know what you are purchasing before you start your dermestid colony. With proper dermestid beetle care you will be able to grow a large team of taxidermy beetles.