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How to Process Osteoderms

by | Feb 17, 2020 | Dead Things, Tips & Tricks

Osteoderms are something I find fascinating and use in my art fairly often. They are boney deposits in the skin of certain reptiles like Alligators and Gila Monsters. Getting them cleanly out of the skin, especially when talking about tiny osteoderms from Gila Monsters, can be a real challenge if you don’t know how, but very easy once explained.

I start with raw skin. When I process a Gila Monster I freeze the skin for later use. In this case the skin from the last Gila Monster skeleton I built. I thaw the skin, place it on the floor of my Dermestarium, and allow the beetles full access to it. Once it is so covered that I can barely even see the skin I grab it and place it in a mesh basket and then suspend the basket over the colony. Any escapees just fall back into their home, and the rest are trapped with the skin due to the metal lip at the top which they have trouble climbing. Then I wait.

The reason I isolate them is because I’m processing several other things and if given the choice between eating meat and skin the beetles will always choose meat. You have to make their only food option skin if you want the osteoderms. I suspend it so beetle frass falls down and doesn’t pile up with the osteoderms making it harder to collect them.

After a week or so the isolated beetles have finished with the skin leaving only tiny little boney deposits behind. I take a paper towel and fold it in half hanging it on the side of the mesh basket. This allows the beetles to use it as a ladder and escape the basket back into the main colony. This usually occurs overnight besides a few scragglers. Then I take tweezers and begin collecting my osteoderms. Once all of them have been collected I process them like any bone. Acetone to degrease, and peroxide to whiten.

This method works on small crocodillians as well!

Upcoming Events

NARBC Arlington, TX

September 18th-19th, 2021

Details