How To Set Up A Clean Up Crew Dermestid Beatle Colony

What are Dermestid Beetles?

Dermestid Beetles, also known as, Dermestes maculatus or skin beetles, are flesh eating beetles classified in the Coleoptra family. Well known for their flesh-eating ability, Dermestid Beetles are commonly referred to as natures ‘clean-up crew’. In a process called ‘skeletonization’, these beetles eat flesh off decaying carcasses, leaving a clean skeleton exposed.  Dermestid also enjoy feasting on rotting plant material, dead insects and their faeces, as well as, food waste.

Never fear… Dermestid Beetles are NOT harmful to humans! Dermestid Beetles do not eat live flesh or skin. 

Dermestid Beetles come from the United States, however they are very versatile and adaptable creatures and can now be found all over the world except Antarctica.

Buy live Dermestid Larvae and Beetles from PetWave. 

Dermestid Beetles Life Cycle

The Dermestid Beetle life cycle, progressing from an egg to an adult beetle, takes approximately 5 – 7 weeks to complete. 


Egg:              At this stage, Dermestid Beetles look like a white smooth grain of sand. Dermestid Beetle eggs hatch in 3 – 5 days. 


Larvae:            Dermestid Beetles larvae is a similar size to the Dermestid adult beetle. Larvae are dark brown, and their body appears segmented. The best temperature for larvae development is between 30 – 35C. A digital thermometer is useful to monitor the temperature range. In winter and cooler months, a thermostat is recommended to control the temperature in your Dermestid Beetle colony.   


Pupae:            Pupae appears smaller than larvae, in a smooth/light coloured oval shape. The Dermestid Beetle pupae stages takes 14 days to transform the larvae to an adult Dermestid Beetle with wings.


Adult:              Adult Dermestid Beetles are described as black, oval shaped, and 5-10mm in size with wings. The adult lifecycle of an adult Dermestid Beetle is 4-6 months. 


How fast do Dermestid Beetles reproduce? 

After mating, female Dermestid Beetles take 24hr before laying eggs. Dermestid Beetles produce 100-600 eggs in their adult lifetime.  

Dermestid Beetles in a roach colony 

Using Dermestid Beetles as a ‘clean-up crew’ for a live insect colony has many benefits. Dermestid Beetles are a natural live insect colony cleaner crew to keep your live insect feeder colony clean. Dermestid eat dead insects, insect faeces, moulted skins, as well as, old food and vegetable scraps. As a result, these beetles reduce mould and bacteria growth in live insect colonies. Dermestid Beetles are not harmful to living insects. 

Add Dermestid Beetles to your live Woodies colony, live cricket colony, live mealworm colony, live superworm colony, and live black soldier fly larvae colony. 

Can you use Dermestid Beetles as feeders? 

Create variety in your pets diet and use Dermestid Beetles as live feeders in combination with other live feeder insects

Find out more information on the benefits of Dermestid Beetles as a clean-up crew for live insect colonies.

Reap the benefits of these magnificent beetles by setting up a Dermestid Beetle colony… 

How to set up a Dermestid Beetle colony

What do you keep Dermestid Beetles in?

You can use either a glass aquarium, plastic container, wood box, or a recycled old freezer to set up your Dermestid Beetle colony. PetWave recommends a plastic container at least 20 litres. When deciding what Dermestid Beetle enclosure to use, ensure it is thick enough that the beetles cannot chew through.  

Can Dermestid Beetles climb? 

Ensure your enclosure has smooth walls to prevent Dermestid Beetles climbing up the side. Coat the walls with fluon to ensure that they are too slippery to climb.

Can Dermestid Beetles fly? 

A large hole should be cut in the roof of the container and a fly sheet glued for ventilation. This will ensure Dermestid Beetles cannot fly out of their colony. 

It is important to consider the placement of your Dermestid Beetle colony. The colony should be stored in a cool dry area, away from any potentially toxic fumes, where it remains at or below room temperature. As Dermestid Beetles are most active in the dark, the colony should be stored away from direct sunlight.  To monitor the temperature of your live Dermestid Beetle colony, a cheap digital thermometer with a 1m probe will do the trick! 

(picture of plastic container with screening as ventilation – similar to woodies colony box)

What substrate do you need for a Dermestid Beetle colony?

Dermestid Beetles need a 1-2 inch deep layer of substrate at the bottom of their colony to bury, hide, mate, and lay eggs in. 

A typical Dermestid Beetles habitat consists of animal or plant material that they can bury in. Replicate these conditions in your Dermestid Beetle breeding colony using shredded paper, shredded wood, cotton batting, or dry dog food as Dermestid Beetles substrate.  

Place a few pieces of polystyrene or corrugated cardboard in your Dermestid flesh eating beetle colony. Dermestid Beetle larvae will use this to bury in and begin the pupae process. 

Your colony is now set up, PetWave has Dermestid Larvae and Beetles for sale online to add to your new colony!

What do you feed Dermestid Beetles?

Dermestid Beetles eat scrap meat/bones, either raw or cooked. When feeding Dermestid Beetles ensure the meat does not touch the substrate as it may transfer moisture. Moist substrate easily creates mould in a Dermestid Beetles colony. Use a shallow dish, carboard tray or similar to feed meat to Dermestid Beetles. Dermestid Beetles can be fed cheap dry dog food as an affordable alternative to meat.  

(picture of dermestid beetle eating meat/carcass)

Feed Dermestid Beetles daily. Consistent feeding encourages Dermestid Beetles reproduction and the colony to grow. Dermestid Beetles will turn to cannibalism where there is no food source.  

To avoid an odour developing, only give an amount of food that can be eaten in 24 hours. It may take some trial and error to find the right amount of food. As a guide, Dermestid Beetle larvae eat up to 5 times their body weight, while adult Dermestid Beetles have a smaller diet. 

How to water Dermestid Beetles 

While Dermestid Beetles receive some moisture from their food, to increase Dermestid Beetles breeding activity, extra moisture should be provided in the colony. PetWave recommends placing a wet paper towel in their food dish, such as a shallow dish, once a week for 24 hours. Never wet the substrate. 

How to clean Dermestid Beetles cage

Often the most dreaded party of owning a Dermestid Beetle colony, a total clean of the colony should be completed at least twice a year or when mess is building up. Routine cleaning of your Dermestid colony helps reduce their odour. 

To remove the Dermestid Beetles from their existing colony, do not feed them for a couple of days. Next, bait the Dermestid Beetles into an egg carton using meat. Then transfer into a smaller plastic container by shaking the Dermestid Beetles out of the carton. It may take up to an hour for the Dermestid Beetles to be drawn to the food source. Repeat as necessary to remove the beetles. 

Once you have removed as many beetles as possible, clean the Dermestid Beetle enclosure by;

  • Removing old substrate and disposing of in a garbage bag
  • Wiping the colony enclosure using a veterinarian grade cage cleaner spray
  • Set up the enclosure as a new colony with clean substrate

Common issues when setting up a live Dermestid Beetle colony 

Why are my Dermestid Beetles not eating? Below are some common problems encountered in a Dermestid Beetle colony that affect Dermestid Beetles health.  


Moisture is the enemy of breeding live Dermestid Beetles. Moisture encourages the growth of mites and mould in the beetles colony, and is often the cause of most Dermestid Beetles Dying. 

Do not allow the substrate to become wet or moist. 

Ensure there is sufficient ventilation in your Dermestid Beetle colony to avoid condensation. 


One of the biggest concerns with a Dermestid Beetle colony is Mites as they are attracted to the same food and conditions as Dermestid Larvae and Beetles. 

Mites have a detrimental affect on the health of Dermestid Beetles, and an infestation will often cause the colony to die off. 

Due to their small size, mites can be hard to get rid of. Use a strong magnifier or microscope to identify mites in your Dermestid Beetle colony. Mites are white up to 0.6mm in size, and attach themselves to Dermestid Beetles. Your Dermestid Beetles may appear to be covered in a white/tan coloured dust. 

Prevent mites in your Dermestid Beetle colony by not adding wild Dermestid Beetles to your colony, and properly storing any food that will be placed in the colony. If you are feeding your Dermestid Beetle a carcass, freeze the specimen for at least 72hr, and thaw in a plastic container to prevent flies and mites attaching to the meat. 

Dry dog food should also be sterilised. Place food in the freezer for 72hr, or heat in an oven on at least 50C. Store in an airtight container.   


Flies are attracted to the odour of a Dermestid Beetle colony and rotting meat used as food. Use a very fine mesh screening for ventilation to prevent flies and fly eggs reaching the colony. 

About PetWave

PetWave is an Australian online pet supply company. We’re experts in successfully shipping fresh, live, frozen and delicate products to you and your pets' door, wherever you are in Australia. Order before 7:30am for next day delivery. 

PetWave are very proud to offer the highest quality and largest selection of live aquarium fish, aquarium plants, live reptile food, live insects, including live Woodies, frozen feeders especially for snakes, lizards, frogs and birds of prey, as well as, many other beautiful decorations for your aquarium and terrarium. 

Find the best live insect feeder for your pet reptile using this guide.

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