Cleaning With Beetles
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I ordered some dermestid beetles from bonesandbugs.com because I had just harvested a Boone and Crockett grizzly bear and I wanted to ensure I could clean the skull carefully without losing any size as boiling could take shrink the skull. I read a lot about them and the owner sent instructions on how to properly take care of them and start the colony off right. Here are some tips on starting your colony and cleaning skulls and bones. You can read more in depth on the bonesandbugs.com website.
1- You have to place them in the proper environment. An old chest freeezer or a rubber maid containor will do. Just make sure you use a screen lid so no other insects can enter the colony as they can decimate it.
2-Make sure there is proper bedding like non-cedar wood shavings, shredded newspaper, or chopped up cardboard. The beetles will form their frass over time which is produced from the material they digest. Do not allow it to get too deep or moisture can develop mold. Styrofam should be added as the larvae burrow into it and metamorphse into beetles.
3-The colony must constantly eat, meat scraps will work in between cleaning skulls. Make sure you do not introduce fly larvae to the colony as it will kill the beetles. Freeze any suspect skulls 24 hours and let them thaw before introducing them to the colony. This will dry the meat as well as you do not want too much moisture in the colony.
4-If humidity is low spray folded paper towels with water once a week to keep moisture available. The optimal temperature is between 75-90 degrees F. If it's cooler they will be less active and hotter temps will kill the beetles and allow them to fly.
5-Make sure they cannot escape, they will eat your hides and mounts if they get out.
How To Clean Skulls
1-Remove as much of the meat as possible with a knife. Do not put cut marks into the bone.
2-Dry the skull, freezing is effective. If the meat is jerky like it is ready to place in the colony.
3-After the skull looks relatively cleaned, shake all bugs out, place in water for 24 hours, dry, then place in colony again to clean the rest of the meat.
4-Remove beetles from the skull and place the skull in an alcohal bath consisting of 50/50 alcohal and water mix in order to kill remaining larvae or beetles that you cannot remove.
5-To Degrease the skull submerse in water with Dawn detergent. You will have to remove the water/soap mix daily in order to let the grease out. For black bears this could take a week, for grizzly bears, up to 1 month.
5-To whiten you can submerse in hydrogen peroxide for as long as it takes to whiten. Then soak in water.