Reload the page to see a new image of the dermestids.
There should be a new picture every 5 seconds.
What the heck am I looking at?
Dermestid beetles are scavengers—organisms that eat the remains and wastes of other plants and animals. They're important because they remove dead organisms from an ecosystem and recycle the nutrients.
They'll eat fresh meat, but also old, dried-out stuff: leather, fur, skins, feathers, wool, silk, stored foods, and—important for us—museum specimens. This can make them very destructive. To develop, dermestid beetle larvae need lots of protein in their diet, and it's the larvae that eat the most and cause the most damage.
Where is this camera?
There's a carefully contained colony of dermestid beetles living at the Science Museum. Because they eat everything—right down to the bone—our biology collection manager, Dick Oehlenschlager, uses them to clean skeletons. The small colony of beetles can skeletonize an animal the size of a raccoon in just a few weeks.
You're seeing images from a camera installed inside the Science Museum's dermestid colony. You can also go down to Level 3, just past the Triceratops and the entrance to the 3D Theater, to see them for yourself.