The name “carpet beetle” probably tells you just about everything you want to know about these pests. These beetles are infamous for infesting a thing you’re supposed to walk around on barefoot. Even worse, they’re not just infesting your carpet, either. They’re eating it, laying eggs in it, and even permanently damaging it.
If you’re like most homeowners, you didn’t know what a carpet beetle was until you found one. Now, you’re somewhat desperate to make sure you never have one again. We can help with that. Here’s everything you ever wanted (well, needed) to know about carpet beetles.
What are carpet beetles?
Unfortunately, carpet beetles are more-or-less exactly what they sound like. Carpet beetles lay eggs in fibrous material such as some carpeting so that their offspring can feed on it. There are several species of carpet beetle, but they’re all oval-shaped and about ⅛” long. Carpet beetles vary in color based on their species and maturity.
The three most common carpet beetle species in the US are:
1. The Black carpet beetle (Attagenus unicolor), which feeds on both fabric and stored products such as grains. Black carpet beetles are dark brown or black, bullet-shaped beetles with brown legs and antennae. Their larva often grow to ½” in length, look carrot-shaped, and are covered in golden-brown hair.
2. The Varied carpet beetle (Anthrenus verbasci), eats dead insects and a wide variety of fabric and other fibrous material. Adult Varied carpet beetles are 2-3 mm long. Their elytra (wing covers) and back are covered with spots of white, brown, and yellow color, giving the beetle a “splotchy” appearance. Varied carpet beetle larvae are 4-5 mm long, and are covered in bristly tufts of hair.
3. The Common carpet beetle (Anthrenus scrophulariae), or buffalo carpet beetle, eats material made from animal bi-products. Adults are 2.5 to 3.8mm long. Their elytra and thoraxes are covered in black and white patterned scales. They also have distinctive bright red and orange scales running down the midline of the thorax, between elytra. Larvae are 2.5 to 5 mm long, reddish-brown, and covered in fine bristled hairs.
How can I tell if I have carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles hide in dark, secluded places in your home. You may confuse them for bed bugs, because they’ll sometimes infest beds to eat dead skin cells left in the sheets. Unlike bed bugs, however, carpet beetles won’t bite you. The bristly hairs on carpet beetle larvae may irritate your skin if you’re allergic to them. Coming into contact with carpet beetles when you’re allergic may create a rash or bite-like marks on your skin.
Obviously, carpet beetles will also eat through the fabrics in your home. You’ll be able see damage on bed sheets, linens, clothing, drapes, and (of course) carpet. Unlike moths, carpet beetles typically feed on one portion of fabric at a time. Their feeding creates large, isolated holes in the fabric. As beetle larvae feed, they’ll need to shed their skin to keep growing. Shed carpet beetle skin is translucent, dry, and flakey. Carpet beetles will shed their skin where they’re eating.
Where do carpet beetles come from?
Beetle larvae actually do the damaging feeding we associate with the pest. Instead of eating fabric, adult beetles seek out flower nectar. They’re often attracted to flowers in your yard. Many adult beetles inadvertently fly into homes while moving from flower to flower looking for nectar. They’ll fly or crawl through gaps in window and door frames, cracks in siding, or through openings near utility lines. Beetles become more active in warm weather, so infestations commonly begin in summer.
Carpet beetles prefer to feed and lay eggs in dark, sheltered areas. Adult beetles actively seek out food sources in these preferred places before they lay their eggs. Consequently, many beetle infestations start in attics or other dark, out-of-the-way places. Beetle larvae tend to feed on places where predators won’t notice them, such as undersides or beneath folds. Like bed bugs, carpet beetles tend to be so small that they’re quite difficult to notice. Some infestations begin after homeowners accidentally bring a beetle inside on a fabric garment.
How can I prevent carpet beetle infestations?
Carpet beetles are attracted to loose, easily consumed food sources. Although they can chew through whole fabric, they’re more likely to seek out damaged or torn fabrics. They’re particularly prone to eating lint, dust, hairballs, damaged furniture, and dead insects. Cleaning up the debris that attracts carpet beetles is the single best way to prevent them. Regularly vacuum, sweep, and dust, especially in areas where carpet beetle infestations seem likely (such as your attic).
Carpet beetle infestations last longest when larvae have a consistent source of food. Usually, this consistent source will be an old, damaged or dirty rug or other piece of fabric. Stored clothing, old rugs and carpeting, or dirty sheets are all particularly likely infestation sites. Go through your storage looking for old materials that could foster carpet beetle growth. Thoroughly clean and wash all the fabrics you keep in your home on a regular basis. When you’re not using the fabric, store it somewhere airtight to make it harder for beetles to access.
After encountering a carpet beetle, you probably spent the next several days playing “hot lava” just to get across your living room. We don’t blame you! Carpet beetles are more upsetting than they have any right to be.
If you ever need help cleaning up a carpet beetle infestation, give Plunkett’s a call any time. We can make sure you feel comfortable actually walking on your floor again.BACK TO BLOG