Please refer also to the following links for details on this group:
Description & Statistics
Dermestids feed extensively on dead animal and plant material, and thus have been referred to as skin beetles. Other common names include larder beetle, hide or leather beetles, carpet beetles, and khapra beetles. However, a number of species feed on the eggs of other insects, particularly where they are enclosed within a distinct case or in a compact mass with a felted covering (Clausen 1940/62).
There are 700 identified species worldwide. Their size ranges from from 0.8–14 mm. Key characteristics for adults are round oval shaped bodies covered in scales or setae. The usually clubbed antennae fit into deep grooves. The hind femora also fit into recesses of the coxa. Larvae are scarabaeiform with setae.
Larvae of some Thaumaglossa spp. feed in mantid egg cases in South Africa and Texas, and in Japan a high proportion of those of Tenodera sinensis Sauss infest another mantid species. A large number of larvae may be found in each case, and the entire contents are usually consumed before the end of the incubation period, which takes at least 6 months (Clausen 1940/62). In some parts of North Africa and Europe, Attagenus, Trogoderma and Dermestes species are important predators on the eggs of gypsy moth and other Lepidoptera with similar egg masses. Several species of Dermestes infest cocoons of silkworms in Asian and Europe, although they are not believed to attack living larvae or pupae within (Clausen 1940/62).
There is a variety of habits, most species being scavengers that feed on dry animal or plant material such as skin or pollen, animal hair, feathers, dead insects and natural fibers. Species of Dermestes occur in animal carcasses, while others have been found in mammal, bird, bee, or wasp nests. Thaumaglossa spp. only live in the egg cases of mantids, while Trogoderma species attack stored grains.
These beetles are important in forensic entomology. Some species are known to be associated with decaying carcasses which aid criminal investigations. Other species can cause great damage to natural fibers in urban areas.
Dermestids have been used in museums to clean animal skeletons. Some species infest violin cases, where they feed on the bow hair of violins.
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Koehler, P. G. & F.M. Oi 1991. Carpet Beetles. University of Florida IFAS Extension
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Vitta, A. et al. 2007. A preliminary study on insects associated with pig Sus scrofa carcasses in Phitsanulok, northern Thailand. Tropical Biomedicine 242: 1–5 2007.
Walker, K. 2008. Hide Beetle. Pest and Diseases Image Library