The dermestidae family of beetles have followed humans since our early history. They’re opportunistic eaters, and they like the things we like: grains, bacon grease, leather, silk scarves, books, carpets. And as early humans traveled, the beetles came with, colonizing across the globe.
The majority of humans’ relationship with these beetles is and has been contentious, as they tend to wreak havoc on human possessions. They’re often exterminated as pests.
But several species of the dermestidae family have a taste for dead flesh. Including dermestes maculatus, aka. “The Hide Beetle”. And for this reason, curators have enlisted their help as “museum volunteers.”
At least, that’s what Chris Stinson of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia calls them. He’s the Curatorial Assistant of Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians and he approximates that he has 20,000 of these volunteers to prep the museum’s collection.
In this episode, Here Be Monsters producer Jeff Emtman smells the beetle tank, listens to them eat an owl skull, and holds a real flesh-eating beetle.*