Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps


Compiler and date details

30 May 2006 - Andrew A. Calder


The Australian dermestid fauna contains 132 species arranged in 14 genera and comprising some 11% of the world fauna. Worldwide the family contains 45 genera and about 1196 species or subspecies (Háva 2003a). These beetles are commonly called bacon, hide, leather, larder, dermestid, warehouse, fur or carpet beetles. Some species are fully cosmopolitan having been transported around the world by commerce and include species of Trogoderma Dejean, Anthrenus Müller, Attagenus Latreille, Thorictodes Reitter and Dermestes Linnaeus (Peacock 1993).

The Dermestidae are small to medium-sized beetles ranging from 1-12 mm in length, with hairy or scaly elytra that are occasionally distinctly coloured, forming distinctive patterns and all have a single simple eye called an ocellus situated in the middle of the head, with the exception of species of Dermestes Linnaeus and Trichelodes Carter (Matthews 1985; Peacock 1993; Lawrence & Britton 1994). The antennae are distinctly clubbed and usually fit into a groove on the underside of the thorax and are well concealed when the beetle is at rest (Peacock 1993). The male of Thylodrias contractus Motschulsky, however, does not have distinctly clubbed antennae.

Adult and larval stages utilise different food sources: adults are commonly found feeding on pollen or nectar of native plants while the larval stages are feeders upon dried animal matter of all kinds from preserved meat to furs, carpets and museum specimens, but not bone, while some are able to live partly or wholly on vegetable material (Hinton 1945; Peacock 1993). Some are often significant pests of stored products feeding on grain or cereal products and are largely responsible for any economic damage incurred. Most species that are responsible for losses to stored products came originally from animal nests or other natural microhabitats. These natural habitats maintain dermestid populations that serve as sources for future infestations. Many species, because of their association with stored products, are world-wide in distribution, having been carried around in ships' holds. Under natural conditions, dermestids occur on carcasses of animals, under bark, in webs of spiders and caterpillars or in nests of bees, ants, wasps, mammals, and birds (Hinton 1943; Hinton 1945; Peacock 1993). American species of Megatoma Herbst, Anthrenus and Trogoderma have also been found in the burrows of various wood-boring beetles where they feed on the dead larvae, pupae and adults (Hinton 1945).

The larvae are active animals and are densely clothed with hairs which usually form tufts and brushes at the hind end. These hairs may be barbed or spear-headed and serve as a defensive mechanism by detaching and entangling predators (Nutting & Spangler 1969). Many larvae have evolved an enzyme capable of digesting keratins and chitins, and many are able to feed on food with a very low moisture content (Hinton 1945; Matthews 1985).

The first Australian species were described by Erichson (1842) who described two species collected at Woolnorth, Tasmania, and Hope (1843) who described the well-known Australian Carpet Beetle Anthrenocerus australis (Hope) which has been introduced into New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain (Peacock 1993). Pascoe (1866) originally erected the genus Psacus in the family Rhipiceridae, that is now synonymised with Trogoderma. Macleay (1871) and Reitter (1881a, b) made minor contributions describing three and five species respectively. Blackburn (1891, 1892, 1894, 1903) described another 34 species, three of which have since been synonymised, as well as the genus Adelaidia, and Lea (1895, 1908) added another two new species of Trogoderma. Arrow (1915) described three new Australian Trogoderma, two new Anthrenocerus, a single Neoanthrenus and Orphinus and noted that Pascoe's Psacus was in fact a dermestid. Carter (1935) described the unique Trichelodes delicatula, originally placing it in the family Dascillidae; subsequently, Peacock (1993) clarified its true affinities to the Dermestidae. Over a period of eight years Armstrong (1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1949) made a major contribution, revising the Australian fauna describing 36 species and two new genera — Neoanthrenus and Myrmeanthrenus which is a known ant inquiline. Kalik (1957) described a new species of Neoanthrenus, Roach (2000) revised the genus Anthrenocerus, describing 14 new species, while Hava (2002, 2003b, 2005) described another three species of Neoanthrenus. Recently, Lawrence & Slipinski (2005) described another two genera and four species of Australian dermestid and discussed their phylogenetic significance. Other recent contributions to dermestid phylogeny include Zhantiev (2000), based on adult, larval and pupal characters, and Kiselova & McHugh (2005), based on larval and pupal characters.

The most recent classification (Lawrence & Slipinski 2005) of the dermestids recognises six subfamilies: Orphilinae, Dermestinae, Attageninae, Thylodriinae, Trinodinae and Megatominae. This classification is little changed from the first classifications of Rees (1943) and Hinton (1945).

The Australian genera are classified in six subfamilies — Attageninae (Attagenus); Dermestinae (Derbyana, Dermestes); Megatominae (Anthrenus, Neoanthrenus, Adelaidia, Anthrenocerus, Myrmanthrenus, Orphinus, Reesa, Thaumaglossa, Trogoderma); Thorictinae (Thorictodes); Orphilinae (Orphilodes); and Trinodinae (Thylodrias, Trichelodes).

The Attageninae include the Palaearctic/Afrotropical genus Attagenus with both introduced and native species. These species are storage pests on animal and vegetable products, e.g. wool, felt, carpets, furs, skins, bones, oilcake, myrobalans, seeds, cereals, cottonseed and flour.

Dermestinae include the Palaearctic genus Dermestes and the endemic Australian Derbyana. Dermestes is represented by seven introduced species in Australia. They are the largest of the dermestids and are very common and widely distributed, being found under dead animals and carrion in the wild. Dermestes are mainly pests of animal products for example, bones, hides and dried fish and are occasional pests of vegetable products, e.g. canola stems, nuts, copra and cocoa beans.

The Megatominae are the largest subfamily and include nine genera, mostly endemic. Australia is home to the most number of species of Trogoderma which includes some of the worlds worst economic pests, particularly of stored grains. The Australian species so far as are known are found under bark where they feed upon insect remains. Only one introduced species of Trogoderma, T. variabile, has become established as a major pest species in grain storage areas. Reesa is a parthenogenetic (reproduction without fertilisation) dermestid. The female lays unfertilised eggs that undergo full development and from which larvae hatch. Reesa is apparently widespread and common in Australia, particularly in grain storage areas and occasionally museum collections. The endemic Thaumaglossa is found in mantid egg cases while Myrmanthrenus lives in ants nests. Anthrenus species are commonly called Museum Beetles due to their propensity to destroy poorly maintained insect collections as well as feed upon the skins of mammals and birds. They are pests of woollen goods, fur, horse hair, bones, feathers, paper, insect collections, and occasionally stored food products (dried fish). The larvae are called 'woolly bears', because of their hairy appearance, and are often found in even the cleanest of houses where they feed upon dead insect remains in concealed corners and roof cavities.

The Orphilinae consist of two genera worldwide: Orphilus Erichson, containing five species distributed throughout the Holarctic Region (Háva 2003a), and Orphilodes Lawrence & Slipinski, known from Australia, Sabah and the Malay Peninsula (Lawrence & Slipinski 2005).

The Thorictinae include four genera worldwide: Thorictus Germar contains some 160 species and occurs from India, Burma through central Asia, Asia Minor and southern Europe to southern Africa; Afrothorictus Andreae and Macrothorictus Andreae endemic to the Cape region of South Africa; and Thorictodes Reitter with three species from China, India, central Africa and Guyana, and a single widely distributed species of stored products, Thorictodes heydeni Reitter (Beal 1959; Peacock 1993). This group was previously treated as a separate family, however presently it is considered a subfamily of Dermestidae (Halstead 1986; Lawrence 1982).

The Trinodinae include the endemic Trichelodes delicatula Carter adults of which are covered in erect, dehiscent setae and the introduced Thylodrias contractus which is called the Odd Beetle, the female of which is larviform and unlike any other beetle. A third recently described genus Trichodryas Lawrence & Slipinski is known from the Malay Peninsula, Sulu Archipelago, Sabah, Kalimantan and Java (Lawrence & Slipinski 2005).


Excluded Taxa


DERMESTIDAE: Thorictodes heydeni Reitter, 1875 [this species was included, apparently in error, in AFD before February 2013, when, following advice from DAFF (Ben Boyd, pers comm.) that the only two specimens in Australian museum collections are quarantine intercepts, the name was removed from the list of Australian fauna. It is known from the Nearctic Region (Mexico, United States of America), Oriental Region (Burma (= Myanmar), India, Pakistan, Indonesia) and Palaearctic Region (Algeria, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey)]


General References

Armstrong, J.W.T. 1941. On Australian Dermestidae. Part I. Descriptions of a new genus and two new species; also a note on the genus Anthrenus. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 66(5-6): 388-390

Armstrong, J.W.T. 1942. On Australian Dermestidae. Part II. The genus Trogoderma Berthold. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 67(5-6): 321-330

Armstrong, J.W.T. 1943. On Australian Dermestidae. Part III. The genera Anthrenocerus Arrow and Orphinus Motsch.; also a note on the on the genus Cryptorhopalum Guér. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 68(1-2): 57-63

Armstrong, J.W.T. 1945. On Australian Dermestidae. Part IV. Notes and the description of a new genus and four new species. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 70(1-2): 47-52

Armstrong, J.W.T. 1949. On Australian Dermestidae. Part V. Notes and the description of four new species. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 74: 107-111

Arrow, G.J. 1915. Notes on the coleopterous family Dermestidae and descriptions of some new forms in the British Museum. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 8 15: 425-451

Beal, R.S. 1959. A key to the Nearctic genera of Dermestidae. The Coleopterists Bulletin 13: 99-101

Blackburn, T. 1891. Further notes on Australian Coleoptera, with descriptions of new genera and species. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 14: 65-153 [Date published July 1891]

Blackburn, T. 1892. Further notes on Australian Coleoptera with descriptions of new genera and species. Part XI. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 15(1): 20-73 [Date published July 1892]

Blackburn, T. 1894. Notes on Australian Coleoptera with descriptions of new species. Part XV. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 2 9: 85-108

Blackburn, T. 1903. Further notes on Australian Coleoptera, with descriptions of new genera and species. Part XXXII. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 27: 91-182

Carter, H.J. 1935. Australian Coleoptera. Notes and new species. No. IX. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 60: 179-193

Erichson, W.F. 1842. Beitrag zur Insecten-fauna von Vandiemensland, mit besonderer Berucksichtigung der geographischen Verbreitung der Insecten. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 8(1): 83-287, pls 4, 5

Halstead, D.G.H. 1986. Keys for the identification of beetles associated with stored products. 1. Introduction and keys to families. Journal of Stored Product Research 22(4): 163-203

Háva, J. 2002. Neoanthrenus king sp. n. (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) from Australia. Acta Societatis Zoologicae Bohemicae 66(1): 29-30

Háva, J. 2003a. World Catalogue of the Dermestidae (Coleoptera). Studie a Zprávy Oblastního Muzea Praha-východ, Supplementum 1: 1-196

Háva, J. 2003b. Neoanthrenus bilyi sp. n. (Coleoptera: Dermestidae: Anthrenini) from Western Australia. Folia Heyrovskyana 11(1): 47-50 [Date published 31/Jul/2003]

Háva, J. 2005. New distributional data about Dermestidae (Coleoptera) with descriptions of two new species, synonymy and lectotype designations. Studies and Reports of District Museum Prague East Taxonomical Series 1(1-2): 77-88

Hinton, H.E. 1943. Natural reservoirs of some beetles of the family Dermestidae known to infest stored products, with notes on those found in spiders' webs. Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London (A) 18: 33-42

Hinton, H.E. 1945. A Monograph of the Beetles Associated with Stored Products. London : British Museum (Natural History) Vol. 1 viii 443 pp.

Hope, F.W. 1843. Descriptions of new species of insects collected at Adelaide in south-western Australia by Mr. Fortnum. Proceedings of the Entomological Society for June 6, 1842. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 1 11(70): 317-319 [Date published Apr. 1843]

Kalik, V. 1957. A new dermestid from Australia (Col.). Casopis Ceskoslovenské Spolecnosti Entomologické 54(1): 22-23

Kiselyova, T. & Mchugh, J. 2005. A phylogenetic study of Dermestidae (Coleoptera) based on larval morphology. Systematic Entomology 31(3): 469-507

Lawrence, J.F. 1982. Coleoptera. pp. 482-553 in Parker, S.P. (ed.). Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms. New York : McGraw Hill Vol. 2 vii 1232 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. & Britton, E.B. 1994. Australian Beetles. Melbourne : Melbourne University Press x 192 pp.

Lawrence, J.F. & Ślipiński, A. 2005. Three new genera of Indo-Australian Dermestidae (Coleoptera) and their phylogenetic significance. Invertebrate Systematics 19(3): 231-261

Lea, A.M. 1908. The Coleoptera of King Island, Bass Strait. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria n.s. 20(2): 143-207 [Date published March 31, 1908]

Macleay, W.J. 1871. Notes on a collection of insects from Gayndah. Transactions of the Entomological Society of New South Wales 2: 79-205

Matthews, E.G. 1985. A Guide to the Genera of Beetles of South Australia. Part 4. Polyphaga: Byrrhoidea, Buprestoidea, Dryopoidea, Elateroidea, Cantharoidea, Derodontoidea and Bostrichoidea. Adelaide : South Australian Museum 68 pp.

Nutting, W.L. & Spangler, H.G. 1969. The hastate setae of certain dermestid larvae: an entangling defense mechanism. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 62: 763-769

Pascoe, F.P. 1866. Notices of new or little known genera and species of Coleoptera. Part V. Journal of Entomology 2: 443-493, pls xviii-xix [Date published Jun. 1866]

Peacock, E.R. 1993. Adults and Larvae of Hide, Larder and Carpet Beetles and their Relatives (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) and of Derodontid Beetles (Coleoptera: Derodontidae). London : Royal Entomological Society of London 144 pp.

Rees, B.E. 1943. Classification of the Dermestidae (larder, hide and carpet beetles) based on larval characters, with a key to the North American genera. Miscellaneous Publication United States Department of Agriculture 511: 1-18

Reitter, E. 1881a. Die aussereuropäischen Dermestiden meiner Sammlung. Verhandlungen des Naturforschenden Vereines in Brünn 19: 27-60

Reitter, E. 1881b. Eine neue Trogoderma aus Neuholland. Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 25: 232

Roach, A.M.E. 2000. Review of the Australian species of the dermestid genus Anthrenocerus Arrow (Coleoptera: Dermestidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 14(2): 175-224

Zhantiev, R.D. 2000. Classification and phylogeny of dermestids (Coleoptera, Dermestidae). Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 79(3): 1-15


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
01-Jul-2020 POLYPHAGA 18-May-2023 MODIFIED Max Beatson
02-May-2019 DERMESTIDAE 18-May-2023 MODIFIED
27-Jul-2017 DERMESTIDAE 18-May-2023 MODIFIED
01-Jul-2020 BOSTRICHOIDEA 18-May-2023 MODIFIED
01-Jul-2020 18-May-2023 MODIFIED
01-Jul-2020 18-May-2023 MODIFIED
18-May-2023 MODIFIED