Using Maggots To Clean Skulls

Submitted by Greg Robertson on 8/12/99. ( )

Try using maggots to clean your skulls. Wrap a fresh skull in a plastic bag. Leave lots of flesh; seems to do a better job. Tear a few small holes in the top of the bag. This allows the flies to get in to lay their eggs. Leave the bottom of the bag free of holes which will collect the loose teeth. The plastic bag also keeps the flesh moist allowing the maggots to clean the skull thoroughly.
Place the bag in a plastic 5 gallon pail with a secure lid. Drill holes in the sides of the pail so the flies can enter. Drill a few small holes in the bottom for drainage. We use wooden crates which we call the "maggot pit" to store several skulls at a time.
Depending on weather conditions it takes about 2-3 weeks for the maggots to do their thing.
We're not sure how but the maggots degrease the skull as well. We deal with some very greasy skulls such as polar bear,walrus & seals and found this method works extremely well.Also works great on muskox horns; don't have to free the horns from the skull. They clean all the flesh between the core and horn.
When you remove the skull from the bag be carefull not to lose any teeth. We always count the # of teeth missing making sure they are all there.
Wash the skull in hot soapy water then place it in peroxide for a few days. Larger skulls such as bison,moose & muskox we wash in soapy water as well then sun bleach the skull on the roof for 3-4 weeks. Some skulls require a small amount of boiling to remove any flesh that dried before the maggots could get to it.
Try this method-it works great. Also saves alot of time boiling.

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Response to maggot idea

This response submitted by Rich on 8/13/99. ( )

Greg,do you keep these maggot pits away from your shop?It must get pretty stinky using maggots to clean skulls,i'm not trying to mock at the idea i think it's quite interesting.How do you get rid of that foul smell off the skulls when you're done.I read a story in National Geographic where the maggot uses bacteria to feed with.The bacteria would turn into a capsule and remain there for a long time.Is there a risk of getting an infection with this method?Boiling with Sal Soda kills all the bacteria on the skull and really does'nt smell,is this an alternative for you when blowflys are gone for the winter?


This response submitted by Greg Robertson on 8/13/99. ( )

Rich, Actually our maggot pit is ontop of the shop. It's probably not the best place to keep it but its the only place secure. The smell only lasts a couple of days. We get alot of wind up here and rarely ever smell it. I'm not sure what my nieghbors think; haven't received any complaints yet. We've been using this method for the past five years. There is no rotting odor once the maggots have finished because it is void of all flesh. The maggots maintain a very clean area during feeding ensuring a very short period of time for any odor.
As far as I know their is no health risk using this method. We got this idea from our natural resource department. We do very little boiling during the winter. Most skulls are kept frozen until spring. Fall muskox and caribou europeans are the only skulls we boil along with a few others from impatient clients. I hope this has helped.

Other critters too!

This response submitted by John on 8/24/99. ( )

For what it's worth,
Last year I set out a coyote skull on a wooden platform in an area surrounded by small trees and brush. I was expecting maggots to do the job, but found that a host of other bugs joined in. Mostly some type of beetle and its larvae. Dermestid beetles? Maybe, I don't know. Whatever they were, the skull was clean as a whistle in about 2 weeks.

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