There is a business in Kodiak that has
a unique method to prepare hunters’ big game trophies. The company, which has
50-thousand workers, would be the island’s largest employer by far, if the owner
actually paid them. Mary Donaldson has more.
(Nat Sound Intro :04s “…fades out.”)
sound of thousands of workers toiling away at Ken Hanson’s side business,
Kodiak Bones and Bugs Taxidermy. He uses Dermestid beetles and their flesh
eating larvae to clean wildlife skulls that are later mounted or put on display
at educational facilities. Stepping into his beetle shop, you are instantly
bombarded with a funky, organic smell. I asked him what produced the unique aroma.
(Bugs 5 :22s “…like worm compost.”)
Hanson, who is a fisheries
enforcement officer, employs about 55-thousand Dermestid beetles on any given
day. The beetle larvae eat only flesh, making them perfect for cleaning bones. Looking
around his shop he has over 20 Rubbermaid-style tubs full of the larvae, busy
chomping away on halibut heads and herring pieces. He says that is what he
feeds them when hunting season has died down. He also has bear and deer skulls
that have already been cleaned, degreasing in detergent. Later, they will be
bleached using a hydrogen peroxide bath before they either put on a European or
wall mount, or returned to the customer without a mount.
He says his business began when he
ordered about 50 beetles over a year ago out of curiosity.
(Bugs 1 :17s “…I said sure.”)
mouth from local bear guides brought in more customers and led Hanson to
officially start up his business with the flesh eating larvae. He says Dermestid
beetles have been used for cleaning flesh from bones and skulls by universities
and museums for a long time. Traditional taxidermy methods for cleaning skulls,
such as boiling, damage or destroy fragile bones inside the skull, and using
the larvae of the Dermestid beetle is the answer to that problem.
(Bugs 2 :19s “…the skulls.”)
He says the
beetles have a longer life span compared to most bugs.
(Bugs 3 :29s “…perpetuate the colony.”)
cleaning animal skulls locally, Hansen says he sells the beetles to many
interested buyers across the U.S.
He sells about 50-thousand beetles to customers each month through his website,
who are either taxidermists or curious folks like he was a few years ago. He is
one of about four businesses in the country that sell the Dermestid beetles and
has even sent them overseas.
(Bugs 4 :10s “…and Yugoslavia.”)
He says the
most interesting sale he’s had lately is a customer whose leg had been severed.
(Bugs 6 :13s “…that was interesting.”)
He says a bear
skull typically takes about one week to clean and costs about 150 dollars. Other
types of skulls are priced by their size.
(Nat Sound :05s “…fades
HOST TAG: Anyone
interested in learning more about the Dermestid beetle or contacting him for
his services can log on to his website at bones-and-bugs-dot-com .