7 min 31 sec

Oregon Woman Gets Paid to Clean Animal Skulls with Flesh-Eating Beetles

You read that right. In this bone-rattling story, a woman earns up to $3,000/month cleaning animal skulls for hunters and horror shows. She’s bad to the bone!
Animals Niche Ideas Service Unique Ideas

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What It's About

A side hustle that employs the most unlikely of contractors—a thousand flesh-eating beetles!

Business Model
Skills Required
Animal Husbandry & Communication
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

For those who want to take the leap and follow in Carla's footsteps, she had this to share: "You should constantly work to improve your craft and respect yourself and your work. Don’t undersell yourself just to make a quick buck. Running a business right is all about playing the long game."

Fun Fact

Carla is sometimes fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with educational facilities and museums and provide skulls or skeletons that can be teaching tools. It’s an aspect of her side hustle that brings great joy. “If I can inspire curiosity, respect, and interest in the natural world because of what I do, I'd consider that a victory,” she said.

Notes from Chris

Episode 291

With a little help from thousands of flesh-eating beetles (her best—and only—employees), Carla takes a raw specimen and turns it into pristine bone—clean, bright and white. Her work may be seen at a museum, as part of a historical and/or educational display, or hung over the mantel at someone’s house. It’s not the most glamorous job. Carla spends hours prepping, cleaning, repairing and restoring, but the end result is well, better than it was when she started.

While she first learned about dermestid beetles for bone cleaning from the TV show Bones, Carla’s interest in it as a hobby came about while working on a goat ranch, as one does. “Nothing teaches you to appreciate your food more than looking it in the eye and raising it yourself, and learning to use every part of the animal is very important to me,” she said.

When she first started bone cleaning, Carla never thought of it as a potential business. Her first experience, about 10 years ago, was [in creating props for] a horror show, she said. It was one of those things she thought was going to be way easier than it really was.

Then, about five years ago, she got her best employees, her dermestid beetles. But even with 300 subcontractors, something was still bugging her. She felt that she still had a lot to learn. As she developed her process, word got around. People began asking if she could clean something for them or had anything she could sell. About three years ago, her hobby turned into a hustle and Dermestidarium was born.

Carla maintains standard prices for the skulls she cleans most often and then quotes case-by-case for anything unusual. Her business provides both a service, skull cleaning, and a product, clean skulls in bulk to sell retail. It’s been a challenge for Carla to pin down prices but she keeps an eye on the industry. She has always struggled with asking for money, though she’s gotten better at it over the years.

Her work is largely seasonal, being busier in the fall and winter, during and just after hunting season. During a busy month, she may bring in $3,000 yet in a slow month might only make $300-$500. That being said, she can see her beetle biz becoming full time in the future and has a lot of ideas regarding how to expand the scope of what she does so it may grow and prosper. Make no bones about it—you can get paid for anything!


  • Dermestidarium: Learn more about these fascinating creepy crawlers and Carla's process on her website
  • Wave: The free, small business financial software that Carla used for invoicing and accounting
  • Wordpress: Carla used Wordpress to create her website, and here you can learn how to install your own Wordpress site in 5 minutes!

Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,




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Quote of the Day
"You should constantly work to improve your craft and respect yourself and your work. Don’t undersell yourself just to make a quick buck. Running a business right is all about playing the long game."
—Carla Brauer #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau