Friday, September 20, 2013
BONELUST Q&A: "Do you use dermestid beetles?"
Carrion insects have always been a part of my bone processing but I’ve never had a captive colony of any kind. For a while I had a wild colony of dermestid beetles/larvae helping me clean. As long as I supplied them with new food they stuck around. But I’ve not yet had a captive colony. Ever since that episode of Oddities with the dermestid beetles in a NY apartment I constantly see beginner collectors talking about getting them to clean bones & it makes me cringe.
Sorry but I don't agree that the best way to remove flesh from bones of an animal carcass is by using dermestid beetles. Many that suggests them too frequently neglect to also mention their care, upkeep and not to mention that while dermestid cleaned bones are beautifully flesh free they are also usually absolutely grease saturated. A step that's often completely skipped by me is degreasing because my maceration process often takes care of it. And to be honest I abhor bone degreasing. It is VERY time consuming and tedious. I'm also quite confused how the Oddities episode skips degreasing completely and goes straight from beetle defleshing to the Hydrogen Peroxide bath. As a longtime experienced bone collector/processor I know that scene must be missing or you'll end up with a grease saturated skull in most cases. Wanted to note that I actually do know Ryan and Monique that were in that episode, so I'm by far giving anyone hell... just wanted to point out some important factual things about bone processing and dermestid beetles that I feel were not mentioned in that episode of Oddities.
I still had to macerate this spine after dermestid defleshing because the cartilage was still between the vertebrae.
Care and upkeep of these beetles is far harder than people realize. I can’t recommend against it more if you are a beginner bone collector. Unless you actually need them for smaller animals & have a constant food supply for them, and are REALLY good at pet care I don’t ever suggest them to anyone. Plus, the maceration process is so easy & inexpensive in comparison. You literally need reg tap water, a tight lidded plastic container & patience.
Dermestid beetle care is far more complicated. They need very specific maintained temperatures, humidity, have to keep them free of parasitic mites, have to keep predators from them like spiders, need food/water, proper bedding, lighting, ventilation and enclosure... and so much more. I am currently working on setting up my first captive colony but only after a LOT of online research, talking to friends that successfully have healthy colonies & even located an out-of-print book on the topic. And I’m still not sure if I will be able to keep them alive but I will give it my best shot. The thought of them dying because I can’t properly care for them kills me. So I’ve prepared for this for literally years. Not haphazardly bought a starter colony online at a whim. If I'm successful I will post a followup blog.
There is a great misconception that feeding them alone is enough. Just drop a fleshy skull into your enclosure and you’re done. Or that cleaning bone is super fast and easy with a colony. Far from the truth. It takes a colony of literally 1000s of adults/larvae to even clean a med sized animal head. The larvae actually do most of the work but you need the adults to make more larvae
So this was just a little PSA to REALLY do your research. They need care just like any other kind of pet. Also, if they get loose in your home they can eat a whole lot of other things in every common household besides dried flesh. I've actually lost a lot of my personal collections in the past of smaller bones and insects to wild colonies invading my home. And yes, adults can fly. So you’ve been warned! haha
For more info on the topics discussed here clink on the links in the post to go to my related extensive posts.