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Dermestids and Fun Times

Discussion in 'Invertebrates General' started by CentriRitanni, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    The ones I looked at when I was setting up my roaches were the opposite. The sterilites were grainy inside and the Rubbermades were slick. Sterilites are cheaper but the rubbermades are tougher and less likely to crack.
  2. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I do not indeed have access to journal databases.

    So far, from what I have read, they look as easy (or possibly easier) than cockroaches to maintain. I'll probably opt to buy 2 identical bins when I get around to starting this project, so one can be completely cleaned while the other is occupied. This is my preferred method for most of my animals that live in bins - mostly bugs, but a few of my smaller snakes, too.

    I also have a chest freezer, and we are in the process of remodeling the house, and will be getting another one soon, solely for storing animal food. This way I can pick up and freeze roadkill and other potential foods to dry them, ensure flies are not present, and keep the dermestids fed.

    From what I have read so far, freezing is the best way to remove potential pests, as well as dessicated the intended food item?

    I had planned on getting plastic storage bins for the freezer, to keep it organized. would be simple to make one of those ventilated to allow enough airflow to desiccate anything I intended to feed to them. Or would I be better served using silica gel packets? we have plenty of those, and big ones too.

    Is it the beetles or the larva that do the cleaning?
  3. Mulder

    Mulder Well-Known Member

    It's the larvae that do the bulk of the cleaning. I read somewhere that adults will prefer to eat fruit and pollen, but I never bothered putting anything in for the adults. They'll eat enough carrion to survive, but it's the larvae who are the real cleaning powerhouses.
  4. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    Huh, on totes? I have 2 rubbermaids that are textured and all my sterlites are smooth. Odd. I've never had issues with the sterlites cracking (though I only keep insects in them).

    Freezing is the best way to remove pests, however, depending on the item in question, it may not be the best way to desiccate. If you follow the method of removing as much meat as possible, then freezing is functional, but if are keeping it whole, there are some additional steps (there are several ways to do this, I'll just tell you my method which assumes you are keeping the skin):
    1) remove the skin and eviscerate (do be careful not to nick the bones);
    2) use paper towels (or a towel if you aren't that worried about it) to hand dry as much as possible without compressing to a degree that may effect the bone (make sure to dry the inside, too);
    3) if you have a net or cheesecloth to cover the item, do so, otherwise use papertowerls of a towel;
    4) tape the loose ends shut (you want the ends to be closed so that insect can't get through, but you want it to be as porous as possible, so don't tape it all over, just where it's necessary to keep it closed);
    5) hang to dry in the sun (if you have concerns about this, you can also hang it in front of a fan, though the sun is faster);
    6) once the item is dry (you'll have to feel inside to confirm this, I pinch the thickest part to feel for a jerked consistency), put it in the freezer for 24 hours (I usually do 72 just to desiccate it as much as possible);
    7) if your beetle tub is big enough, put it in on, if not, put it in a properly sized tub and add beetles.

    You can use tubs with holes. I use cheesecloths and put a tag on them. I wouldn't use silica because it could kill your colony (the beetles still need water, they just shouldn't be damp). You can try it, I suppose, but if you do, I would only use a very small portion of beetles to test it so as not to kill off the colony if it doesn't work. There is nothing worse than killing off your colony (or even just a large part of it) due to an accident.

    Mulder is right, the larvae mainly do the cleaning. The adults do eat it some. Think of them like houseflies, in that the larvae eat high-protein diets, and the adults will eat almost anything. That said, the brains, for whatever reason, make colonies EXPLODE! A lot of people prefer to scramble the brain and drain them, but I don't want to risk damaging the bone, so I just leave it and the eyes in.
  5. Mulder

    Mulder Well-Known Member

    I wonder if something like a lab desiccator would work. The carrion could sit above the silica or drying agent, and never come in contact with it. I want to start up my own dermestid colony again, but I'm just not sure where I'll be in a year.
  6. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    I suppose that might work. Drying in the sun doesn't take all that long, though, so I won't say I'm tempted to try to silica. For small things, I just use a kitchen drying machine, so there are definitely many methods you could use to dry them, I certainly did not give an exhaustive list, merely what I choose to use. I am going to do some research, though, and see if I can find anything on using silica (I can't imagine no one has used it before).

    As far as a lab desiccator goes... I think it would depend on the method. There are lots of ways to dry something, but not all are equal (for example, rubbing alcohol... probably not the best plan... although vodka could get interesting! [for you, not the beetles, haha]). I'll see what sources I can find on chemical and laboratory desiccation for carrion beetles.
  7. Mulder

    Mulder Well-Known Member


    This is the thing I'm thinking of. It'd probably take a few days to a week, though.

    Have you tried using the water crystals instead of misting in the tote? We used blue cricket water gel when we did our experiment, and no one died or had trouble molting that we could see for the two months we ran the colonies.
  8. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    I mist the tub once a week. It's not enough of a hassle to worry about water sources. Also, how large is that device? It looks fairly small (correct me if I'm wrong). With small things, I just use a food dehydrator. Also works well for fat tidbits, meat scraps, etc. I haven't forgotten about checking into silica, but I have not done it just yet. I will post what I find.

    On a side note: Alligator gar smells awful! Holy crap! My friend's "ichy" team somehow got one in their possession, and prepped it for me... upon delivery it smelled bad, and now that they're eating it I could almost swear it smells worse! I don't know how they drove 5 hours with that thing in a car... it smells like death met a skunk and found a grizzly bear to snooze with. Yeesh!
  9. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    I didn't mean putting silica gel in the colony, only using it in the containers while meat is in the freezer, to help keep things dry in there. Doesn't even have to contact the meat. it just sits there and absorbs moisture from the air.

    When preserving other things, I frequently used salt to dessicate and prevent rot. I'm guessing that is probably not a very good idea here, as you probably don't want the colony having way too much sodium?

    So you just gently press it as dry as you can, and hang it in the sun for a while? That's totally workable for me. How long does it take to dry a deer skull, raccoon, opossum, etc that way?
  10. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    Depends on how much of it you keep intact, how hot and dry it is outside, and where you hang it. A skinned deer skull with brain and eyes in, compressed for moisture, then hung in a breathable bag in the sun at 100F with very low humidity takes a few days, 3-5 usually (I position it so the nose is facing down so that excess fluids may easily run out). Higher humidity takes longer, and it may be necessary to put it in the garage in front of a fan for a few days to get it really dried out. The only raccoon I've done was flat and pretty dry to begin with... so that's probably not a good gauge. If I had to take a guess, I'd say skinned, eviscerated, and in a bag hanging upside down with its ribs propped open, maybe 5-10 days. Couldn't say for sure, that's just a rough guess.

    Now as to the salt, silica, and other methods, I am hereby stating that I will stop procrastinating and actually do the research tomorrow after work. If you catch me posting before I've noted my findings, point to my lies and say, "mendax!"
  11. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    Alright, I've searched every database I have access to, as well as some extensive googling, and the only thing I can find about silica involves killing the dermestids. I suppose it could be tested with a small group so that one could see if it: 1) kills the beetles; or 2) changes the behavior/feeding habits of the beetles.
  12. Mulder

    Mulder Well-Known Member

    I'd be very interested in your results. Are you going to let the silica come in contact with the carrion or just place it near, like Dragoness and I were considering?
  13. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    Not sure, I suppose I could test both, and salt-cured meats as well. The experiment will need to wait until this gar is cleaned, though, because the faster it is gone, the happier I will be.
  14. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Def keep me posted. Silica gel packs can be re-used multiple times, if you bake them in between to dry them out. We have a few large ones that could be put to good use. I would imagine the salt would be bad - too much sodium is not good for any animal, really, and most plants won't even tolerate it (marine organisms being obvious exceptions). Might be good for desiccating things you don't intend on feeding to something else. Makes good jerky though!

    I think as soon as I get a few other cage projects done, it may be time for Dermestids! Still have some unpacking to do which will free up a few plastic tubs and bins, of assorted sizes.
  15. CentriRitanni

    CentriRitanni Elite Member

    The point of the salt-treated is to show behavior patterns in dehydration, so that I have a normal means and an extreme means to compare to. I realize it is probably a suicide mission for the beetles.

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