Today I was at the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) in Wilmington, Delaware. I spent most of my time working in their library. But the highlight of the day was when Jean Woods, the curator of birds, took me to see the "beetle room".
This is where they keep millions of hungry dermestid beetles that could devour an adult human in less than 5 minutes. Well, okay, I am exaggerating a little bit. They use the beetles, especially their larvae, to clean animal carcasses, especially those of birds, so the bones can be added to the museum's collection. The beetles were in a large box that you can see in the picture below.
When there are no carcasses that need to be cleaned they feed the beetles dead gulls. There was one in the process of being eaten. So, you can imagine what this room smelled like. Jean was apparently used to it, but I couldn't stand it for more than a few seconds at a time. I kept pretending I had to change the lenses of my camera so I could step outside to get fresh air (this room, although it is attached to the museum building, has a separate entrance that opens directly to the outside).
The pictures below show adult dermestid beetles (left) and a larva (right). The largest larva I saw was about 1 cm long.
And here are some deer bones that were cleaned by the beetles. They do a pretty good job.
So, next time you are visiting DMNH (it is a nice museum, by the way), if you feel like being grossed out, go find Dr. Woods and maybe she will take you to see the flesh-eating beetles...
Here is an old post on dermestid beetles that live in my basement!