cleaning skulls

Gallo del Cielo

La Gallina Resort & Spa
9 Years
May 6, 2010
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ugh I don't understand this website!
Anyways... I don't like the thought of maggots at all! Ew!
Dermested beetles need a certain temperature.
Do you think mealworms would work?

how long would the dermested beetles take to clean bones?
I don't think regular mealworms would work, they are largely herbivorous while the dermestid beetles used for this purpose are carnivorous, specializing on carrion. Any insect you use to clean the bones will require a given temperature range in which they work best. How quickly they clean the bones will depend largely on the population size you're working with and the temperature at which they are kept. We had large populations that could clean a skull in a day or two at warm temperatures (~75 degrees). Lower population sizes and lower temps will increase the amount of time it takes. I will point out that, due to the smell, this is something you'd probably not want to do inside your house. Here is a nice page on how scientists use dermestid beetles to clean skeletons for museums.
 

cityfarmer12

Songster
5 Years
Oct 18, 2014
1,231
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Missouri
I don't think regular mealworms would work, they are largely herbivorous while the dermestid beetles used for this purpose are carnivorous, specializing on carrion. Any insect you use to clean the bones will require a given temperature range in which they work best. How quickly they clean the bones will depend largely on the population size you're working with and the temperature at which they are kept. We had large populations that could clean a skull in a day or two at warm temperatures (~75 degrees). Lower population sizes and lower temps will increase the amount of time it takes. I will point out that, due to the smell, this is something you'd probably not want to do inside your house. Here is a nice page on how scientists use dermestid beetles to clean skeletons for museums.
2x

i actually breed meal worms, and they eat oats and veggies
 

skullcandy

Hatching
Mar 26, 2015
5
0
7
Dufferin Ontario
Thank you for the link on the dermestid beetles. Where can I get my hands on them? Right now I have a few skulls in the freezer I will eventually clean, but I have cleaned skulls already and getting them decorated for aboriginal show this summer!
 

AliP

Chirping
7 Years
Dec 26, 2012
29
5
84
If you Google "dermestid beetles for sale" you'll get lots of options. Good luck!!
 

emmyeagle

Chirping
5 Years
Jun 18, 2014
317
12
71
Central New Mexico
We use hydrogen peroxide & water plus time. We find bones here in the desert. If they are really fresh, we bury them. Again... takes a long time. In summer there are plenty of natural cleaner beetles.

My daughter paints and carves them. I've got bones all over the property!!
 

Beer can

Free Ranging
5 Years
Aug 12, 2014
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Upstate NY
I skin every bit I can off the skull while it is fresh and doesn't stink. Pull out the eyes cut a hole where it can't be seen and pull all the brain out. Put it in a big pot of boiling water and boil until the rest is ready to fall off. It gets it pretty good, and I never had the bones fall apart. I hung one up in my garage once for awhile after cleaning, when I went to finish it whith hydrogen peroxide I found the skull cavity and nose full of dermestid beetle carcasses. Apparently they will find something to eat naturally. I use non-chlorinated bleach alternative from the dollar store.
Check the label, the one I get is hydrogen peroxide.
 
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Sea Wolf

Songster
Apr 30, 2015
408
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Taxachusetts
Just came across this by accident, looking for something else. For any interested parties, you do not, ever, cut a hole in a skull to remove brain tissue as the above post tells you to. The hole is already there at the back of the skull. Do not "boil" a skull. You will also damage it and it doesn't clean it. You are trying to clean bone, not make soup. ""I hung one up in my garage once for awhile after cleaning, when I went to finish it whith hydrogen peroxide I found the skull cavity and nose full of dermestid beetle carcasses. Apparently they will find something to eat naturally."" ... Yes they will and, if that skull was clean, it wouldn't be full of insects. I rest my case.

You can simmer a large skull clean but it is very easy to damage or destroy it if you are not careful. You use soda added to the water to dissolve the flesh. Better is to use beetles in a controlled environment or macerate in warm water. Once the bone is clean you need to soak in solvents/detergents to remove grease. Once that step is done, you soak in peroxide to whiten it. Steps done in that order or you are wasting time and materials. I do this as a business and I charge money to clean skulls for customers. It is easy to make something nice for those that like that sort of thing. It takes time to do a good job so resist the urge to hurry it up. Anyone can feel free to post here but I don't visit here often. A better option, if you are interested in learning the correct way to do this, is to visit this site Taxidermy.net. There are years worth of free information on that site and a number of professionals that are willing to help and answer questions. I can also be contacted through there and have many posts and tutorials on that site specific to this.
 

itsasmallfarm

Crowing
Oct 27, 2016
1,824
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canada
Just came across this by accident, looking for something else. For any interested parties, you do not, ever, cut a hole in a skull to remove brain tissue as the above post tells you to. The hole is already there at the back of the skull. Do not "boil" a skull. You will also damage it and it doesn't clean it. You are trying to clean bone, not make soup. ""I hung one up in my garage once for awhile after cleaning, when I went to finish it whith hydrogen peroxide I found the skull cavity and nose full of dermestid beetle carcasses. Apparently they will find something to eat naturally."" ... Yes they will and, if that skull was clean, it wouldn't be full of insects. I rest my case.

You can simmer a large skull clean but it is very easy to damage or destroy it if you are not careful. You use soda added to the water to dissolve the flesh. Better is to use beetles in a controlled environment or macerate in warm water. Once the bone is clean you need to soak in solvents/detergents to remove grease. Once that step is done, you soak in peroxide to whiten it. Steps done in that order or you are wasting time and materials. I do this as a business and I charge money to clean skulls for customers. It is easy to make something nice for those that like that sort of thing. It takes time to do a good job so resist the urge to hurry it up. Anyone can feel free to post here but I don't visit here often. A better option, if you are interested in learning the correct way to do this, is to visit this site Taxidermy.net. There are years worth of free information on that site and a number of professionals that are willing to help and answer questions. I can also be contacted through there and have many posts and tutorials on that site specific to this.
100% agree on boiling
i boiled a bear skull this last spring, i might of cooked it too long and the teeth fell out. oops nothing super glue can't fix.
 

Sea Wolf

Songster
Apr 30, 2015
408
666
156
Taxachusetts
100% agree on boiling
i boiled a bear skull this last spring, i might of cooked it too long and the teeth fell out. oops nothing super glue can't fix.
Teeth falling out is ok as there is tissue in the sockets that needs to be removed. Worse is that the teeth will crack and split as they dry. The collagen in the bone itself breaks down and, as the bone ages, turns to powder and starts falling apart.
 

TwoCrows

Inuit Raven
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This may sound strange but ants will clean a skull pretty fast. If you have fire ants in your territory, lay the skull next to an ant mound and the ants will clean it up quick, getting into those tiny crevices. Watch that nothing carries the skull off in the process.
 
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