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Dermestid beetle question

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by adriane123, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. So this is very exciting for me because I'm no longer cleaning skulls out of my apartment anymore! (you can imagine I didn't get a whole lot done that way) I found a shop to rent that I can do it out of. I bought a large chest freezer, and am working on building a custom tank for my beetles. I have lots of work to do yet but hopefully I'll be up and running in less than a week or so.
    My big issue is I'm still not sure what substrate would be best to use for my beetles. I'm sharing a shop with a another person and I don't smell to be an issue for him. It's a 25x55 shop full of greasy cars so hopefully I won't be THAT stinky for him to notice much.

    My errors I did when I first got some beetles was I didn't let the skulls dry up at all. I would basically flesh them and throw them in wet with the beetles. I was using shredded paper at the time and it seemed that any moisture got soaked into the paper and was just RANK smelling. I was working with 1,500 beetles and just doing martins and small stuff. This time I'm planning on buying 12,000+ at least.

    This time I will place the skulls in front of a fan to dry out like I should have been doing.
    I saw "Skeletons INC" the other day and was very interested in knowing what skulls unlimited uses in their beetle tanks. Looks like some sort of cotton or insulation type stuff.

    Do you guys think as long as I dry the meat out on the skulls it would cut down on stink good enough? Or would it matter what type of substrate to use? Any advice or pictures of your guys setups would be very helpful. Thanks
  2. All my skulls go directly to the bugs after thawing. no drying needed if you.......

    1 have a large enough colony to do the job

    2 use small pieces of plywood that have screws run through it. this keeps the goo out of the substrate, the screws elevate the board so as not to mash bugs and bedding

    I use a big role of cotton batting. role it across the enclosure and they will tunnel and breed like crazy. at the end of the season i collect most of my colony and then roll the used bedding and slip into the dumpster. There are many different ways and bedding options. just happens to be the one i like. my large colony will turn a elk or buffalo or moose in less than a day. the smaller ones can clean a deer in the same amount of time. Once you get a good colony started make sure you set up another starter colony for insurance and for smaller skulls. good luck!

  3. Thats a great idea...I suppose using some sort of thin pan like a cookie sheet, or pizza pan would also do the same job of keeping any liquids out of the substrate. Cotton backing sounds like a great idea. Trying to change out their substrate sounds like quite a project.
    Thank you for your reply skulley! Very helpful
  4. if you go this route, be sure to collect your colony as best you can before removing the batting. when you roll it up and get rid of it you will be throwing away 100s to thousands of eggs , some larvae and even and adult or two. i only change out the batting once a year. twice a year would be nice. the stuff i put in starts at about an inch thick. they will tunnel and bore and raise upwards of 5 to 6. eventually it will be used up and they will stop laying eggs in it. you can lay a second layer over the top but i wouldnt recommend it
  5. also I had some questions about the actual tank.
    can never seem to find a fish tank large enough to fit a deer head into. plus I would think it would be less costly to build my own.
    I've watched several YouTube videos on how to silicone plexi glass to make your own tank. I am however not sure how I'm going to do a top for it yet.
    can anyone tell me what you guys have used?
    Pictures would be helpful.
    I just wanna make sure it's big enough to fit a large deer head into. I would hate to have to turn somebody way who wanted skull cleaning because the antlers were too large. that sounds ridiculous.
  6. Or if someone could at least give me the dimensions of your beetle tank that would be suitable for fitting even the largest mule deer skull into would be most helpful.
    Right now I'm prepared to build a tank that's 4ft x 3ft x 3ft is that overkill? I just want to make sure I can fit multiple skulls in the tank and have room to spare in case I take on any large skulls. Like I said I'd hate to build it too small and someone has an extra wide muley and I'd have to turn them away because it wont fit in my tank.
    Thefishen1 likes this.
  7. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    I'm also very new to skull cleaning and dermestid beetles but ran a feed store for many years and stocked all sorts of different animal bedding etc. I would suggest using Carefresh Natural premium pet bedding. It comes in 765 cubic inch bags and expands to about 30litres, is all natural, no chemical contaminents and they boast "superior odor control!" The company also claims it last twice as long as wood or paper. It's a reclaimed cellulose fiber, previously waste product from the pulp industry. It was $10 at my local big box pet store here in B.C. I also saw it referenced in one of my beetle booklets, I will post the title when I get back home tomorrow and have a look. Like I said, I'm very new to beetles but I would assume many beetle guys and gals use this very product or similar. I'm using a tin pie plate "disposable", dug it down an inch or two so it's level with the substrate and easily accessed. I put a couple layers of paper towel down inside the pan and placed the skull inside. I also tore a few strips of paper towel and draped across the head for the bugs to climb on.

    This is only my 3rd skull with my new beetles and my first larger skull. A few notes I would like to share...I cleaned the brains out real good, fleshed and removed the tongue and eyes, dried in front of a fan for 6 hours and re froze. Next morning I threw it in with the beetles, they barely touched it for 2 days and by then the smell was truly "wicked!" I went into a state of newby panic and started looking for solutions only to find the bugs loved the semi dry and very smelly skull....go figure! In hindsight and for the future I will try drying them out more before feeding or grow my colony big enough to eat it all in a day or two...before the stink factor lol. I also found my humidity spiked with the semi dry skull and I'm sure if this was constant it would lead to mites or poor health.
    Hope this helps a bit!
  8. [​IMG]

    this is my large box. plywood and fiberglass. if you go this route it is indeed expensive. they cant climb it or chew it. removable top with full screen.
  9. humidity seems to be less of a factor up north. my bug barn never exceeds 18% unless i have just put 4 or 5 skulls in at once. it will spike up to 25% for a day only and drops back down. i can mist my bugs every day and still not increase the humidity so i just put the skulls in fresh n wet. i have not had any mites. some of the guys on here that are located further south like much higher humidity. the higher the humidity the longer the skull stays soft or moist. more humidity also attracts mites. i think the best approach is to have a colony that is capable of cleaning what you feed them within a 48 hour window.

    you can start out with any kind of large plastic tote from lowes or where ever. the bugs can climb out of some of them. put some aluminum tape around the sides up top. cut some of the lid out and put screen over it and you are on your way.
  10. adriane, if you use plywood skull mats, when you want to start a new colony just take the skull and the plywood and set in your new container. gently catch some adults and they will have hatchlings in as little as 4 or 5 days. there are lots of eggs and youngsters in the plywood, that's why i use it and move 'em into the new colony
  11. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Sorry for the delayed reply, the booklet is Beetles and Bones by Rob "Graves"....very fitting for a beetle and bone guy :)

    Skulley that is one awesome looking setup you have there! Looks like a good setup for Moose, Elk and Caribou...very nice!
  12. thanks, i used to do finish work in custom homes. have a lot of really nice scrap stuff laying around but the plexi is expensive. i am thinking the 3 boxes i made must be 5 years old? anyway, they hold really really well. easy to clean. doesnt matter what you put 'em in. eventually enough dust and death particles will adhere to the sides of your container and they can walk right up the darn thing. so once a year when i empty the batting i wipe down w/ water and ammonia. that big box can hold a couple of elk/bou/moose but usually have to leave the top off.
  13. gnatboy911

    gnatboy911 Member

    Yes, very nice set up Skulley! Started with a Rubbermaid tub, but I've got a freezer set up now that has been up and going for a couple months. It's working well so far.
  14. One of the more important things (IMO) is proper ventilation. If you don't have the majority of the top screened then you need fans installed in your enclosure. My bug barn is about 10 x 12 and is set up to draw fresh air 3 times ea. day. The barn stays between 80-87 and my humidity is usually 16% . There can be quite a bit of variance on the humidity and temps but if you have quality air it seems to help a lot. I have not built a freezer setup but they seem to work well and are popular.
  15. gnatboy911

    gnatboy911 Member

    In my research I found that ventilation was a common topic. I cut two 2" x 4" holes in one end, and installed a bathroom vent fan on a timer in the other end. All openings are double screened inside and out. I haven't had a humidity problem at all, knock on wood.
  16. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Once my new colonies get big enough I might have to harass you for those blue prints ;D I have one colony from a local university working away on a bear cub skull in a 10gallon tank and my other beetles from Kodiak Bones and Bugs are working away on Ermine and Martin skulls in a 25gallon tank. Both tanks have full screen lids I made with window screen kits. Seems to be working well for a novice setup but I can't wait to get a proper work space and the room to build some BIG dermestariums...i bet my girlfriend would be thrilled to get them out of the house ::)
  17. yep, definitely one way to breakup with the girlfriend! kodiak is good to deal with. you definitely went to a good source. hey gnat, good job on doubling up your screen, if its not metal they can take an interest in it eventually. if you want to keep your beetles from looking for a way out........

    fresh air
    fresh bedding
    fresh meat, of which i think is the most important
  18. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Yea I got very lucky in finding Ken at Kodiak through Taxidermy.net forums...yes "search engine" does work! Ken is a great guy to deal with and has been very supporting with all my newby questions. I was a little worries about shipping but they all arrived health and very ready to eat. I would highly suggest him and his services to anyone looking to acquire good quality, healthy beetles backed by solid technical support. Thanks Skulley for your insight and for all the wisdom you share....sure helps out us newbs!!!
  19. Your welcome. Most of my knowledge was learned here from other members.