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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Larvae in taxidermy alligator head.

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Larvae
Larvae  

Next to a ruler!
Next to a ruler!  
Hello Mr Eaton,

On a recent trip to Florida I bought a taxidermy alligator head. Now in the morning I sometimes find little beige larvae that have fallen out of a small whole in the head and landed on the table where I keep the head, there is also a sand like substance on the table as well. I'm sure there eating whatever is left inside the head! If you are able to identify the larvae and tell me are they dangerous to pets, as I have a dog, and can I get rid of them?

Thank you for your time and assistance on this matter.

James Houlihan

Answer
James:

Well, these are not what I expected.  I suspected carpet beetle larvae (family Dermestidae), but these are clearly something else.  

I imagine they are probably larvae of deathwatch beetles (family Anobiidae), but it would take putting them under a microscope to be certain.  I wonder if the alligator head skin was stretched over wood, because wood is what many deathwatch beetles bore into.

Anyway, they pose absolutely *no* health threat to you, your family, or pets.

Considering that you are in the UK, and the taxidermy mount is from the U.S., I do suggest freezing and thawing the object over the course of about a month (freeze a week, thaw for two, freeze again....).  That *should* kill any remaining larvae, eggs, pupae, adult beetles.

I might also consult the local office of your national agricultural agency and/or customs to get their advice.

Lastly, and personally, I would not traffic in wildlife products.  Demand for such objects creates problems for living, breathing populations, obviously, and we should collectively be valuing the living creature, not its hide or head.  I'm not judging you by any means, but others will read this answer and perhaps think twice, too.  Another great problem is the one illustrated by your question:  Insects can hitchhike on all kinds of organic products, then become serious pests in foreign countries.

Thank you for sharing this strange find.

Sincerely,

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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