A beetle-cleaned lingcod skull (TIM HOVEY)
I bought a small bag of candy last night, but I’m not expecting many kids to knock on the door of my apartment complex that is locked from the outside (maybe that’s a good thing in more ways than one). But as we inch a little closer to November and the next issue of California Sportsman, I had to share a little bit of Tim Hovey’s upcoming story on beetle-cleaned skulls for hunters wanting to keep a trophy from their experience. Tim runs his own business, Dermestid Inc. (dermestidbeetlecolonies.com; 661-263-9418) and shared with us the process of using colonies of beetles to clean animal skulls in preparation for drying them into mounts. So in honor of this creepy, crawly holiday, here’s a little bit from Tim’s story that’s available in the November magazine, along with a couple of photos of his work that capture the Halloween spirit:
An alligator skull after being cleaned by Dermestid beetles. (TIM HOVEY)
DERMESTIDS COME IN two life forms: the ravenous and hungry larvae and the egg-laying adult beetle. The larvae are the workhorses of a beetle colony and are responsible for a majority of the skull cleaning. The larvae emerge from the egg in two or three days; they are ready to eat and go through roughly a month of growth and development before they wrap themselves up in preparation of changing into an adult beetle. A week after entering metamorphosis, the transformed larva emerges as an adult beetle and almost immediately begins to lay eggs on any food source available, starting the entire process over again.
Despite their almost unimaginable appetite, there is a certain amount of skull processing that is required prior to placing the head in with the colony for cleaning. Dermestid beetles will not eat the skin, fur or feathers of the animal, so the skull needs to be skinned first. After the skull is skinned, I’ll spend some time removing some of the muscle meat, tongue, eyes and brain. The beetles will eventually eat these parts, but if you remove them ahead of time, the skull cleaning process will go a lot quicker. The processed skull is then placed in front of a fan for a few hours to dry out the remainder of the meat. The beetles prefer a drier type of meat and will clean the skull faster and more completely when this step is added.
Wild pig skulls; male on the left, female on the right. (TIM HOVEY)
To read Tim’s story, get a copy of California Sportsman, which should be available soon at many outlets like Safeway, Von’s, 7-11, Stater Brothers, Barnes and Noble and others. To subscribe and get a great fall deal at just $19.95 for a full year of your local fishing and hunting news, click here.