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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Dermestidae (hide beetles, museum beetles)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Coleoptera (beetles) > Polyphaga > Superfamily: Dermestoidea

Dermestids are small to medium sized beetles (2-10mm). The larvae feed on dead and dry animal matter such as furs, skins, cured meat and decaying carcasses. They are therefore regarded as pests of museums and stored animal products. Conversely, Dermestes maculatus , a larger, smoother-looking beetle, is in  fact used in museums to clean flesh off bones being prepared for collections. Some species also feed on cheese if left exposed. Adults feed on nectar and pollen.

About 30 species of dermestid beetles have been recorded from southern Africa, including a number of introduced species. However, there are thought to be many more species yet to be named and described. 

Anthrenus verbasci

Anthrenus verbasci, Carpet Beetle, 2mm. Feeding on pollen of a daisy. This animal is a pest in museums as it can damage and consume valuable biological specimens.  [image H. Robertson, Iziko ].


All that remains of a once fine pinned museum insect specimen is a cluster of exuviae (shed larval skins) of the pest that ate it, the Carpet beetle Anthrenus verbasci. The larvae are nicknamed 'woolly bears' because of their plump appearance and long hairs; they feed on dried animal substances, especially wool and skins.  [image H. Robertson, Iziko ].


  • Penrith, M. 1985. Dermestoidea. In: Scholtz, C.H. & Holm, E. 1985.

Page by Margie Cochrane