One somewhat surprising method for cleaning skulls fairly quickly is to use maggots. This method is not particularly hard and doesn’t require a lot of effort which is great. There are just a few things to understand and keep in mind that will make this a great option. You can also see the video on this method here.

You could simply leave a skull out for the flies to get but the results will be varied and not always worth the effort. Paramount to cleaning skulls using maggots is of course warm weather. Depending on where you live will determine when you can utilize maggots.

I would recommend placing the fresh skull in a plastic container and punching in holes in order to let the flies in and out to lay their eggs. This will also prevent scavenging mammals from running off with your skull and generally keep everything contained so you don’t lose parts of the skull. Using a container will also help keep the skull moist.

Probably the most important thing you can do is keep the skull from drying out. If the skulls dries out the maggots will not be able to feed on the tissue. I recommend placing the skull in a plastic bag (opened so the flies can get to it) inside the container as this does a great job of retaining moisture and creating a perfect environment for the maggots to live.

The second thing you should consider doing is skinning out the head. This is not a requirement but it does make for a better final result. Hair from the skin can end up in tiny crevices in the skull if the hide is left on the skull. Finding small bones and teeth can also be challenging when there is a bunch of hair to search through once the skull is cleaned.

Depending on the size of the skull and the weather it can take as little as 4 days to fully clean a skull of the tissue. You can also see dermestid (flesh eating beetles) beetles show up and take advantage of the meal but they can be very elusive so you may not even see them even though they are around. If the skull is fully cleaned you can then move onto degreasing the skull in dish soap and water, and then whitening in 3% hydrogen peroxide. I personally like to macerate the skulls after the maggots clean them just to make sure there is no organic material in the skulls. You can see how I macerate skulls here.

The first 1-3 days will be the worst in terms of the smell and then will dissipate quickly after that. You will see lots of flies around the container the first two days. After the flies lay their eggs and the maggots hatch you will actually not see hardly any flies around.

If there are still some maggots in the skull when you take it out of the container simply submerge the skull in a bucket of water until they that all float out to the surface of the water.  Using this method works best in a rural area away from the neighbors.

Just follow the few steps above and let the fly larva do all the work!