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Any member of about 700 species (family Dermestidae) of widely distributed beetles that are household pests. Usually brown or black, some are brightly coloured or patterned, and they vary in shape from elongated to oval. Dermestids range from 0.05 to 0.5 in. (1 to 12 mm) long and are covered with hairs or scales that easily flake off. The wormlike larvae feed on furs, skins, feathers, horn, and hair; some feed on cheese and dried meats or on carpets, rugs, furniture, and clothing. Two are museum pests that have destroyed collections of stuffed animals; museums and collectors must either have pestproof display shelves or continuously apply pesticides. The larvae of carrion-feeding species are sometimes used to clean the soft tissue attached to animal skeletons.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on dermestid (beetle), visit Britannica.com.
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