1. Welcome to Taxidermy.net, Guest!
    We have put together a brief tutorial to help you with the site, click here to access it.

How Can I Get My Beetles To Eat Faster?

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Neal Griffin, Dec 23, 2020.

  1. Neal Griffin

    Neal Griffin New Member

    7
    4
    I just bought my first beetle colony in early October. I purchased 2000 beetles. I had a few projects for friends and family until a local taxidermist found out about me. I have now 40 heads in freezers at his shop and my house. When i started working with him in November I ordered another 5000 beetles. Right now a whitetail skull is taking 4-5 days to clean and they aren't getting the nasal tissue very well. I'm using a freezer that is about 24"x36" space for them. It is kept at 77 degrees and the humidity is always between 50% and 25% depending on how recently a head went in. My heads are clean of all extra meat, brain, and eyes. I am at a point now where I have to boil heads to keep his customers happy with turn around time. I'm not a fan of boiling which is why i bought beetles.

    The only issue that i see is that i added too much bedding to start out with. I have about 1.5 or 2 inches of shavings in the colony. I've been working on removing it but that seems painfully slow if i'm trying to not throw out beetles.

    Any advice is appreciated
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  2. Have you tried laying a moist rag over the skull? Seems to help speed mine up a bit by keeping the flesh and cartilage from drying out too quick. Other than that, just be patient. It takes them a while to get established.
     
    Robert Baker likes this.

  3. Neal Griffin

    Neal Griffin New Member

    7
    4
    I have not put a wet rag in but I do mist them with water if they start to look too dry. I had more problems drying out when I only had 2000 beetles

    I didn't see a proportional change in the amount of time it took to clean a skull when I went from 2000 to 7000 beetles which makes me wonder if I'm missing something.
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  4. You're probably not missing anything. They can take quite a while to get going sometimes. The adults will lay eggs on the meat but only a fraction survive because the larvae will eat some of them. Most of the time I find it best to scatter small bits of meat around the enclosure when i am trying to revitalize a colony. Additionally, I find mine take a week or two to recover after being disturbed by a cleaning so depending on how long it has been since you added the 5000 it might just be that. All in all a few days to clean a skull isn't bad with the number of bugs you are talking about. I can knock out a deer in 24 hours but I probably have millions. I still keep a few rags in the enclosure that I lay over the nasal area. They are full of eggs and very small larvae that can get right to work.

    Might I ask...What are you using for a heat source? Are you placing your skull directly under it?

    Sometimes it may be better at first to turn down your temp a little. Say 70 degrees and use the heat source to localize the beetles until they get cranking.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  5. Neal Griffin

    Neal Griffin New Member

    7
    4
    The extra 5000 have been in the enclosure for around 4 weeks. I am using a small space heater as my heat source as well as two reptile mats. That was not really by design. I started with one mat and it wouldnt maintain temperature as it got colder. I added a second and it still didnt keep up so now I have the space heater. I will move try adding rags and directing heat towards the skull more. That won't be hard to do.

    What is your setup for watching the progress. I try not to open my enclosure more than 2-3 times per day but whenever I do the beetles scatter. I've heard dark is better but I am starting to wonder if an observation window would be beneficial. I'd open my lid less often but I have two toddlers who think it is pretty exciting to look at what is happening in there.
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  6. I would get rid of the reptile mats. They tend to draw them down into the bedding and actually make the bedding hotter than the air inside. I'll assume you have a thermostat such as an inkbird or something you are controlling the temperature with so...
    Get some plain lamp holders from home depot or lowes (pictured below) and some ceramic heat bulbs (also pictured below). (you can buy them at a pet supply store but Amazon is a lot cheaper!)

    As for checking progress I try to only open them once a day, usually first thing in the morning, sometimes twice if there is something that isn't quite ready and I think it will be in the evening. I'm not a fan of the observation window because I think they do better in the dark. However, I have a friend that keeps a small night light in his enclosure and his bugs have gotten used to the light. The rags will help with not scattering them away from the food source when you do open it that way the kiddos can get a peek without as much disturbance.

    It sounds silly, but if you see the boy beetles riding on the girl beetles they are happy with the conditions.
    IMG_6268.jpeg IMG_6267.jpeg IMG_6266.jpeg IMG_6265.jpeg
     
  7. Neal Griffin

    Neal Griffin New Member

    7
    4
    The reptile mats are actually mounted to the underside of the freezer's lid which is probably why they weren't enough to keep it warm when the temps dropped. I have an Inkbird thermostat and humidistat. I already have some heat lamps I used for chickens. I'll get some of those bulbs and try it out.

    I have had a rag over the head for a few days and I have noticed a difference at least in not scaring everything off the head when i open the container now. Even if I lift the rag they don't seem to care like they did when I opened the lid before. I'll keep an eye out for any beetles riding each other. I have a feeling that things are pretty good in there and I'm just getting impatient.

    I'm ordering more beetles this week. I started boiling heads to up my turn around time and I'm spending more time on something that I don't think looks as good. Do you have any thoughts on how fast a colony grows when it is fed enough and conditions are right? As I mentioned before I had 2000 and then bought another 5000. I'm going to order another 5000 to 7000 this week. I really want to get myself to a point where I can easily clean 1 skull per day by September. Access to meat will not be an issue for me.

    Thanks a lot for all of your advice!
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  8. If you are investing in more beetles I would suggest starting a second colony with them. From your description of 7000 you should have plenty to reach your goals. Otherwise just be patient. General lifecycle for dermestids is egg (about a week to two to hatch depending on sub species), larvae (7-9 molts over a few months), pupate (make sure you have styrofoam for them to burrow through), and you have new adults. You can probably see the potential here for plenty of beetles by September. It just takes time.

    As for a skull a day this may be a little ambitious (not impossible) I would probably shoot for a skull every 3 days if it were me. The reason is that they are quite efficient at removing meat but are slower at removing tendons and cartilage. If you base your feeding regiment off of how much you want them to eat in 24 hours it should get you close to your goals. For example, if you strip most of the meat off the skull and remove the brains you probably only have a few ounces of material left. So if they can go through that amount of food in 24 hours then they will clean the skull in theory. However they will never eat the tendons and cartilage as fast as they eat meat.

    As for boiling and turn around time...do what you are comfortable with. Everyone wants their stuff back quickly but they are always happier when it's perfectly done, regardless of the time it takes. I've found that explaining your standards and the time it will take to do the job right is the best way to instill patience in your customers. After all, the degreasing process is what eats up the time usually and has no standard that can be applied because it isn't done until it's done.
     
    Robert Baker likes this.
  9. byrdman

    byrdman Well-Known Member

    8,890
    4,124
    play pink floyd... “ you cant have any pudding if you dont eat your
    meat”
     
  10. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    77 is way too cool, IMO. I heat my entire beetle house at about 85 this time of year. I have a dehumidifier and try to keep the humidity below 50%. My little colony cleans a deer skull every other day. They have been invaded by red legged ham beetles, but continue to work for me. I leave skulls in the dermestsrium 6 days. Every other day, I add a deer skull and remove one. On the one I remove, I hang it over my dermestarium and allow the stubborn ones 24 hours to dive their ass off into the dermestarium. The next day, I give the hanging skull a few more taps with a hammer to allow them to fall. After that, the skull goes in a freezer and they meet their maker in the next world.
     
    Graybeard's Beetles likes this.
  11. I just drown mine in the degreasing tank...

    Nice system you have going by the way.
     
    fadetoblack72 likes this.
  12. Neal Griffin

    Neal Griffin New Member

    7
    4

    I thought the beetles started flying when you got into the 80's which is why I stayed at 77. Do you have issues with flying? I don't want to open up my freezer and lose a bunch.
     
  13. joeym

    joeym Old Murphey

    Only if the temperature reaches close to 90 degrees. My beetle house is air conditioned to help control the temperature. Yes, some do escape occasionally. My box has an open top to keep the internal humidity at a minimum.
     
  14. fadetoblack72

    fadetoblack72 Member

    54
    5
    Mine fly at 80 but only a bit and it’s not a concern if there is food