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First Skull "Ermine"

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by FowlWeather, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Hey all,
    Just wanted to share my first completed skull after starting out and acquiring a starter colony of Dermestid beetles from Ken at Kodiak Bones and Bugs, thanks again Ken these bugs are great! I'm brand new to skulls, bones and articulations so I'm fairly happy with the final results of first attempt. I have a bunch more different specimens in the freezer that I will be working on over the coming months so I will be sure to share as I go. I used 50/50 Ammonia/cold water for a week and then 3% hydrogen peroxide for a week with a little bit of gentle toothbrush work in between. What do the pros think? Thanks!

    Attached Files:

  2. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    2nd pic

    Attached Files:

  3. It's an excellent first skull. Small skulls are often more difficult than large ones. You might want to put it back in the ammonia for another week to remove the remaining grease in the mandibles and above the upper carnassials. Also, that vertical strip at the end of the nose is cartilage and could be removed.

    Barely visible in your photos are holes on top of the skull in the frontal bones. Don't worry about them. They're perfectly natural. They're cause by parasitic nematodes. Most weasels have them.
  4. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Thank you Alpinist for your compliment and feedback, both are greatly appreciated!...as a new guy I'm all ears when it comes to advice. Those mandibles sure are tough to get extra clean, I was pondering putting it back in the Ammonia/water solution but had concerns that keeping it in the solution for too long would result in a chalky finish as it's so small and fragile. I will try another week in the tank with a bit more gentle scrubbing. If it doesn't fall off in the ammonia I will trim the vertical nose cartilage strip as well to finish it off :)
  5. Another week in ammonia will not harm the skull. I've left mouse skulls in 10% ammonia for several weeks without damage. (They didn't need to be in ammonia that long. I just forgot about them.) You shouldn't need to do any scrubbing. The cartilage at the end of the nose should pop right off with a pair of tweezers even when the skull is dry. Just be careful not to damage the delicate nasal turbinate bones right behind the cartilage.
  6. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Very nice. Small skulls are indeed a pain especially the teeth. Bugs are the way to go with these micro skulls.
  7. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Alpinist some interesting info there for sure. I had no clue about parasitic nematodes and am trying to figure out where the holes are exactly? There is some pitting above the ermine's right eye and what appears to be a tiny pin hole dead center on the forehead between the eyes...are these the areas? I actually thought these areas were flaking from the ammonia being 50/50 with water for too long and that's when I decided to stop the degreasing earlier than planned. Going to read up on these parasites and see what they're all about.

    Thanks Sea Wolf, I have read many posts you have contributed and have taken in a lot of excellent information especially on cleaning bones and skulls...I will be trying maceration on some specimens this summer as well...love that "search function."

    Also wondering if anyone knows how to determine sex of Ermine from the skull? Or is it even possible?
  8. in your photos it shines just a bit. did you seal it? it came out fantastic, good job.
  9. michael69

    michael69 Active Member

    There will be more grease that shows up when it is completely dry, one week isnt long enough. As alpinist said more time in ammonia if thats your choice of degreasing method will be needed.
  10. AH7

    AH7 New Member

    Great skull. You're nuts for starting on such a small guy, but you kicked its butt. If you are worried about the ammonia, no harm in just water and dawn (that's my preferred method and I haven't used a drop of ammonia for YEARS). With a skull this small, acetone sometimes is a good resort too. Either way, another few weeks would probably do it some good. Just be sure to keep track of those absurdly small teeth!
  11. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Thanks Skulley, I didn't seal the skull as I am concerned mostly with doing a really good job on degreasing and whitening. Once I get those two processes figured out I might attempt sealing a couple.

    Thanks Great Skulls, I will also be trying the Dawn method on some skulls once the beetles are done with them...I have been dreading those tiny teeth falling out on me but am sure if I had a good magnifying glass I could match up the detail...that's IF I find them after they fall out LOL. Maybe I will try the "panty hose" method of protecting against any escapees :D

    Everyone's comments and compliments are appreciated, thank you all.
  12. AH7

    AH7 New Member

    I probably should have mentioned: even thought this skull COULD be degreased a bit more, I would leave it as is and put it on my shelf. A little grease never hurt anyone.
  13. SamGyna

    SamGyna New Member

    Awesome. I've just decided to finally start cleaning skulls and get some beetles. I'll be calling Ken from BnB tomorrow. I'm super stoked to see such a beautiful piece of work from a first-timer. Gives me a glimmer of hope!

    Wondering, how many beetles did you start with? How long did it take?

    I've got six coyote heads in the freezer. Hoping to get my beetles before Thursday.
  14. Fowl Weather,
    Sealing is not a big deal. Just take a can of clear spray paint and put a few coats on.

    Skull Cleaning is not like regular taxidermy that requires a lot of time to "master" and get good at. It is just a process of keep degreasing and whitening until it is perfect or to your satisfaction.
    It might take a bit of experimenting to see what works best for you in terms of setups and processes but it is not really hard at all. Any newbie can get a perfect skull if you do it right and put some time in it.
  15. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Thanks SamGyna, I started off with with a few hundred or so from a local university and also a 1200 beetle colony from Ken "two separate colonies just in case". Both colonies were a mix of tiny-large beetle larvae and fewer adult beetles. This is great if you want to start cleaning right away and build a bigger colony in a hurry as the beetle larvae do most of the eating and the adults will be breeding and laying eggs. The ermine skull was cleaned overnight by the beetles as its tiny and the bugs were very active...it all depends on how large/active your colony as to how much time a particular size skull would take. My colony obtained from the University was at "guessing" 1000 beetles and larvae. After feeding them some small duck scraps I put in a yearling black bear cubs skull. I had rough fleshed it, removed the eyes and brains leaving the jaw attached and put it in the bugs. It ended up taking just over a week for them to finish and man it was "H-U-M-M-Y"...sure glad I removed the brains! Now the colony would eat that in a day no problem and is now large enough that guessing a population seems impossible. Weasel123 is right, it's not like mounting a bird, but learning the proper process of cleaning/degreasing/whitening and beetle care is important in my eyes. I can only suggest reading old posts using the search function, many members have posted a wealth of information here but it takes time to sift through and search...my girlfriend just noticed that Ive spent "1 day, 8 hours and 50 minutes l" on here reading old posts for info...now she knows where all my spare time went....ive been caught hahaha!
    Read, read, read and post up some stuff when your done! Good luck.

    Weasel123, I really like the natural look of the skulls after whitening but I'll be doing some experimenting with some different sealers...and I'll make sure the white spray paint "isn't" within arms reach.. yikes! I once was told a smart man learns from his mistakes but a wise man learns from anothers mistakes.
  16. Haha. Yea, DO NOT make that mistake. I was just suggesting that because you can get it at your local hardware store if you didn't want to order paraloid for now.
    If you use matte finish it does not show at all. I usually do 4 light coats and you can't even tell it is on there.
  17. FowlWeather

    FowlWeather New Member

    Thanks for the tips Weasel, I'm going to track down some paraloid to have handy just in case the occasion arises.