The secret life of beetles

Since December 2011, the Natural History Museum and Site-Eye Time-Lapse Films Ltd have been filming inside one of the beetle colonies used for bird skeleton preparation.

The results are fascinating, and we are delighted to share some of our favourite films online. We hope you enjoy them!

Warning: the films are graphic, showing specimens and their decomposition.

  • Scarlet macaw time-lapse video.
    Scarlet macaw Ara macao

    Our beetles don't eat feathers, so specimens are usually skinned before they reach the colonies. In this example we left the feathers intact to show how this large parrot’s amazing skull sits underneath its skin.

  • Scarlet macaw 3D time-lapse video.
    Scarlet macaw Ara macao 3D

    Watch our beetles prepare a Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) in 3D. You will need red and blue 3D glasses to watch the video.

  • Green parrot time-lapse video.
    Great Green Macaw Ara chloroptera

    Another large macaw, this time the first whole skeleton of this species prepared for our collections. Watch what happens to the bony ring that helped support its large eye.

  • Pheasant time-lapse video.
    Mountain peacock pheasant Polyplectron inopinatum

    This small pheasant was plucked but not de-fleshed when it went into the colonies. Watch how the articulated skeleton is exposed and remains mostly in its original position.

Adult and larva Dermestes haemarrhoidalis.
Skeleton preparation

Find out more about the preparation process and meet the forty-year-old beetle colony at Tring that plays a central role in preparing new bird skeletons.