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Cleaning And Whitening Tiny Skulls

Discussion in 'Skulls and Skeletons' started by Honey the Bean, Nov 27, 2021.

  1. So throughout last year and this year, I was asked to save any skulls I came across from mice, voles, shrews, chipmunks and squirrels. So I did, and some have been somewhat cleaned (brain taken out, eyes taken out), while others have just remained completely intact. They’ve all been put in a salt/borax mix, and have stayed dry the entire time.

    Now that it’s winter and there is almost nothing to do I was hoping to get back to them and clean them up, and then whiten them with peroxide. I know I’ll have to soak the skulls to clean them, but — when finished, how much peroxide should be used (I’m guessing 3% should be fine, maybe a bit diluted?) and roughly how long...?

    I know it’s a silly question but I’d still like to know...
  2. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Not sure how you plan on cleaning them. Possibly if you soak them long enough you will leach out the borax and be able to have beetles clean them. Otherwise, the borax will kill them. Might still be possible to macerate them but, again, the borax might have long term effects. However you clean them (ones that you left the brain intact before drying might be badly grease stained in that area) 3% peroxide would work fine if that is what you have. It is very weak so do not dilute it. Use it straight and allow the skulls to soak probably 24 hours. Maybe less if you feel that they are white enough for you. If the bone is really clean on these, most parts are thin enough that the 3% might make them white enough for you after soaking for several hours. Again, they will be done when you are happy with the color.

  3. Thank you for always being so knowledgeable and answering everyone's questions <3

    So, where I live, unless the beetle's can be shipped or our small area, (as in like, survive a few days journey), there is no other way to get beetles around here. There actually was only ONE taxidermist in our entire region (Mr. Telesky) and he just recently retired, as the borders were closed and he just wasn't getting the business he needed to stay open. But he was a pretty well-known guy, you might have heard of him?

    But back to beetles, I don't know if they could get here, or would survive the journey. It's getting colder here too (even though after I got them, I would just keep and breed my own). I've always either hand-cleaned my bones, or with some tight spots like in skulls, (an example would be a large rabbit skull I found, along with the skin, already sleeved, just thrown on the side of the road~! It was neat to me and of course I grabbed it...) I've used maggots, and then just flushed them with warm water until they all crawl out on their own/pick them out as they come out. The skull I did that with came out really nice too, and I didn't have to soak it like my other ones to degrease it. (Took before-inbetween-after pics).

    So.. I guess my question is.. If I don't have the beetles, and I soak them long enough, or several sessions, it should re-hydrate the tissue enough to clean it, yes..? And what kind of damage would the borax have done to the bone..?
  4. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Borax will not damage bone but it makes the tissue on it toxic to insects. Nothing in your profile says where you are from but I assume maybe not the USA? Ken, of Kodiak Bugs and Bones, ships beetles everywhere and they always arrive healthy and no parasites. As long as they don't freeze they do very well. Dermestid beetles are better to work on thin or delicate bone. Maggots can be used as well but they can and do damage thin bone as well as other sanitary issues (and odor) that make them unsuitable for use indoors all year long.

    If you soak them long enough you will leach out the salt and borax. You might also be able to macerate them clean after that using warm water (80 to 90 degrees) and keeping them in that water for a week or so. If the flesh does not rot off of them in that time due to the previous chemicals, try adding a very small piece of raw flesh to the water. Once that starts to rot, the bacteria should make the jump to the skulls as well.
    Honey the Bean likes this.
  5. Oh, I thought i had put where I’m from. I’m from central Canada, where the cold is starting to set in now So I’m fairly certain the beetles wouldn’t survive, unless they were kept warm somehow...

    I may try the maceration method on a few, just to see if it works for them. I have a small aquarium and a heater I used for some rabbit skulls when I guess I thought I was degreasing them? Haha. Shall I let you know how it goes?
  6. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Ken ships his beetles with heat packs if I remember correctly. Should email him and ask. I would not buy from anyone else.
    Beast+Bone likes this.
  7. If I were to put the skulls in small jars with the lids on to macerate, and set them on a baseboard heater (it’s a low setting), would that be okay...?
  8. I’m with Sea Wolf. I just got my beetles about a month ago from Ken. He was great to deal with and he does indeed ship them with heat packs if it’s going somewhere cold. I highly recommend him, he got me set up with my first colony which is growing great right now and if I ever need more I wouldn’t buy from anyone else
    Honey the Bean likes this.
  9. I live up in Ontario Canada, so I’m hoping he can send them here without any custom/border problems... if so, then I can start my own colony too! ^^
  10. I’m sure he can probably do it. I would call him he is very informative and will be able to answer all your questions. He said offers “after purchase support”. So you can call him or email him with questions or concerns about the colony and setup
  11. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    I don't think there are any problems shipping to Canada. Each of the little beetles has it's passport and papers in a little pocket somewhere. ...

    Send him an email .... before it gets any colder. You will be glad that you did.
  12. Sea Wolf

    Sea Wolf Well-Known Member

    Honestly, I would not recommend it. Maceration containers should be open as the bacteria need oxygen. Shut off the oxygen and a different bacteria grows, turning everything black. It can be corrected in whitening but it won't happen if done correctly. There is also the issue of odor. Not something I would want indoors in any strength. Spill any of that liquid on something and it will smell of death forever. Baseboard heaters are not on 24/7 so your containers will not be heated evenly/continually. A bucket or other container with an aquarium heater is very simple to set up and will work perfectly for any small in home projects. ... But it should still be outside and it is very easy to insulate maceration containers outside in even freezing temperatures.