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start a dermestid beetle colony for skull cleaning

buy Dermestid Beetle kits for Personal Use Or Your Own Commercial Business

Dermestid Beetles Do The Work of Cleaning All the Flesh Off of Skulls and Bones

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Important Facts to Know When Buying Dermestid Beetles

It may not seem important, but buying dermestid beetles from a company that specializes in skull cleaning will only benefit you!

Over the years, we have had many calls from people who have purchased beetles form online auction sites and other vendors looking for specific advice. Many of these vendors only sell bugs, they don’t have the experience cleaning skulls. What may appear like a good deal at the time of purchase can turn into a larger hassle than it’s worth! The calls we receive (when colonies have been purchased elsewhere) often concern other bugs/parasites that were found in their beetle order when it arrived.

We guarantee that our colonies are mite-free. This is imperative to cultivating a long-term and sustainable population of dermestid beetles. If you are looking to buy from other sellers, ask them if they guarantee their beetles are free of these parasites. Better yet, ask to see pictures of the bugs you will be buying.

Show Me The Bugs!

When we collect beetles for our dermestid beetle kit orders, we separate the beetles from 95% of the debris, or “frass,” that accumulates in the colony. This allows us to get an accurate count on how many bugs are included in each and every order. We have actually taken the time to count them, and then weight them to ensure all orders are receiving the correct amount (plus some!). This process has resulted in no complaints when it comes to the number of bugs our customers receive.

Depending on age classes of the beetles in the colony at the time of order, there are differences in weights. Adults are heavier than tiny larvae and we will make slight adjustments depending on the majority of age classes in the order. Check out some pictures of our bugs and the quantity you will receive depending on order size!

Beware of sellers who tell you they will ship you your bugs in the waste, or “frass,” material – it’s impossible to really see how many bugs are in the order and if you are paying for the weight of the bugs or the waste.

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what are dermestid beetles?

The Dermestid Beetle, sometimes referred to as a carpet or skin beetle, belongs to the family Dermestidae. This beetle species feeds on dry-moist animal material, ensuring that decaying and dead flesh is recycled. Invariably these beetles will show up at a carcass to aid in decomposition; and if it’s good enough for nature, why not harness their power to clean your own animal skulls.

There are many species of Dermestid beetles that are native to North America. Domestic colonization of wild species has proven to be difficult at best. The species most easily colonized is Dermestes maculatus

life cycle of the dermestid beetle

These beetles undergo complete metamorphosis; that is, egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. Through maturity, the life cycle lasts about 45 days per generation. Adults (beetle looking), lay eggs which are too small to be seen with the naked eye. A few days later, very small larvae hatch out, which begin looking for their first meal. The larvae continue eating and molting 8 times before they reach about an inch in length. This growing/molting period lasts about 30 days. It is the larvae that do the majority of the cleaning. The large larvae then find a quiet spot and pupate. As they pupate their last outer larvae skin falls off leaving them somewhat yellow in appearance. Seven days later out comes an adult. Within a day or two the adult is laying 4-5 eggs a day and the whole process begins anew. The adults live for about 3 months.

Male Dermestid Beetle
Female Dermestid Beetle

things to consider when building your colony of dermestid beetles

Ensure you receive plenty of adult beetles in your order. Adult beetles (egg laying) are necessary to immediately building a colony. When buying dermestid beetles, make sure you are getting plenty of adults. Many businesses will sell you mainly small larvae which will not increase your colony size until they reach adulthood and lay eggs. As a result, it could take up to 2 months before you have any new hatchlings in your colony.

To clean big game skulls you will need thousands of beetles and larvae. Many businesses will tell you 100-300 beetles and larvae are enough to immediately begin cleaning skulls. This may be true if you were cleaning mice skulls, but to clean big game animals, you need thousands of beetle larvae. To attain numbers this high it takes time to build your colonies. Do not be fooled by people claiming you can build a working colony in a few weeks from a handful of larvae. Getting adult beetles is the key, and even if you started with 500 adults, it would take a month before all the baby larvae were big enough to eat large volumes of meat.

Purchase from a company willing to answer your questions. The number one reason people buy their beetles from us is that we continue to help and support our customers whenever they have a question about beetle care, skull cleaning, degreasing, whitening and mounting. We have been cleaning skulls with Dermestid beetles for 25 years, and have experience with virtually all game species. We do a large volume of skulls and can answer your skull taxidermy questions.

**If you plan to buy more than 10,000 bugs, please email us for special deals.**

#1 Dermestid Beetle Starter Kit

When you purchase our #1 “STARTER KIT” we will include:

  • An assortment of 300+ live adult beetles, larvae, and pupae. We guarantee a minimum of 50 adults which are necessary to begin new colonies.
  • Plenty of bedding material that beetles prefer to lay their eggs in.
  • Two pages of instructions on how to construct and maintain your colony.

 $55.00 + $12.50 shipping/handling (no shipping to Canada)

#2 Dermestid Beetle Super Kit

When you purchase our #2 “SUPER STARTER KIT” we will include over 2000 bugs!

  • An assortment of over 2000 adults, larvae, and pupae. We guarantee over 200 adults. The equivalent of over 6 #1 kits (over $150 savings)
  • Plenty of bedding material that beetles prefer to lay their eggs in.
  • Two pages of instruction on how to construct and maintain your colony.

This Kit will get you cleaning skulls in 3-4 weeks. This option will also enable you to start multiple colonies at once.

 $230.00 + $16.50 shipping/handling (no shipping to Canada)

Dermestid Beetle Kit FAQs

When not cleaning skulls, it’s important to feed your beetle colony a regular diet of raw meat. We recommend feeding weekly to encourage reproduction and colony maintenance. As you gear up for your next skull project, you’ll want to increase the feeding frequency; do this roughly a month before you introduce a new skull. It’s also important to maintain a temperature of 75-85°F for optimal activity.
The number depends on skull size. For an elk skull, start with 10,000 beetles to avoid meat spoilage. Smaller skulls require fewer. Contact us for specific recommendations based on your needs.
More beetles = faster cleaning! We offer various colony sizes to fit your project timeline. Let us know your desired time frame, and we'll suggest the ideal beetle count.
Absolutely not! While their name might sound intimidating, dermestid beetles are nature's expert decomposers, strictly feasting on dead flesh and organic materials like cartilage. They have no interest in living animals and wouldn't even consider chomping on your finger.

The myth of flesh-eating dermestid swarms is just that - a myth! These beetles play a crucial role in cleaning up our environment, efficiently processing leftover tissue and leaving behind pristine, bone-white skulls, perfect for your taxidermy or educational projects.

Here are some fun facts to dispel the flesh-eating myth:

  • Their mouthparts are designed for shredding dead tissue, not puncturing live skin.
  • They lack the enzymes needed to digest living tissue.
  • Live animals actually repel them with their natural defenses.
So, rest assured, your dermestid beetles are dedicated to their cleanup duties and pose no threat to you or any living creature. Let them do their magic and enjoy the amazing results of a naturally cleaned skull!
They're nature's clean-up crew! Dermestid beetles efficiently remove tissue without damaging bones, simplifying the process and saving you time.
Yes, they do emit a mild odor. Proper ventilation and container maintenance minimize it. Learn more about building effective enclosures.
We prioritize safe and fast delivery. We ship with USPS Priority Mail, ensuring your beetles arrive healthy and ready to work.