Beetle cam

Flesh-eating beetle fact file

Get the facts

  • The scientific name for flesh-eating beetles is Dermestes maculatus.
  • Flesh-eating beetles are only 10mm long but they have a big job to do. Their grisly task is to strip whole animal carcases down to skeletons.
  • Despite their macabre feeding habits, these beetles have a sensitive side and hate being exposed to light.
  • Scientists sometimes use strong chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and carbon tetrachloride to strip the flesh off skeletons they want to study. But those chemicals can eat into the bones and change their structure.
  • The beetles clean skeletons naturally by stripping off the flesh but leaving the bones and collagen untouched.
  • The people looking after the Museum’s beetles have to be extra careful they don't escape: they'll eat any organic material they can get their jaws around, including the Museum's collections of stuffed animals and skins.
  • The beetles will tuck into about 4kg of flesh a week.

Watch the beetles at work