Most people have a hobby they enjoy such as hunting, fishing, crafts or sports. But one Elkins resident’s hobby involves his large and unusual insect collection – featuring more than a million flesh-eating beetles.
“I got into the hobby after I killed a buck,” Daniels said. “My fellow instructor, Steve Purdum, said that what I wanted to do with the deer skull, rather than boil it to remove the residue, was to use flesh-eating beetles. He said using the beetles would be the creme de la creme.”
Daniels said he talked with some of his other friends about the beetles and asked their advice. One friend, taxidermist Kenny Shaffer, said he also hates to boil the skulls because it gives off a foul odor. He said using flesh-eating beetles for skull taxidermy is the preferred method.
“I got to thinking about this process,” Daniels said. “If Kenny doesn’t like to boil them, maybe others dislike it as well. I talked to five other taxidermists, and they told me they would send me their skulls to clean if I got into the flesh-eating beetle business.”
Daniels said he ordered 1,000 of the beetles, called Dermestid beetles, to start growing his bug colony.
“I ordered them online,” Daniels said. “You have to be careful when you order them. These bugs occur naturally, but these are different because they are not contaminated with lice. That is the key to keeping your colony healthy so they can do their job.”
Daniels said he has cleaned 123 skulls so far this year.
“I have cleaned deer, weasels, coyote, bear, bobcat and otters to name a few,” Daniels said.