Carpet Beetles and How to Identify Them

Carpet beetles, as their name suggests, have an appetite for carpets and other items composed of wool, fur, felt, silk, feathers, skins, and leather. These small insects leave behind destruction similar to clothes moths and can quickly destroy vulnerable items if left to their own devices.

If you notice damage to textiles around your home, carpet beetle larvae may be to blame. This blog dives into how to identify these insects and effectively manage them if they’re in your home.

IDENTIFICATION

Carpet beetles like to congregate in areas away from human activity. Adult carpet beetles can grow up to 1/8 inch long and range from black coloring to patterns of white, brown, yellow, and orange. The adults feed on flower pollen and are typically transferred indoors during the spring. Female beetles can lay between 50-100 eggs on or near vulnerable materials, though breeding grounds can vary depending on the environment. Eggs can be laid on fabric items stored in the back of a closet, areas where pet hair congregates, or even on taxidermy. Carpet beetle larvae will not feed on synthetic fibers and primarily feed in spaces that are dark and undisturbed.

Adult carpet beetles are attracted to light, so finding them around a windowsill is a good indication that there may be an infestation. When hunting for carpet beetle larvae, look for large areas of damage on garments, carpet, upholstered furniture, or other similar items. The larvae can grow up to the size of adult carpet beetles and are a tan-brown color. They are slow moving and densely covered with hairs or bristles. Carpet beetle larvae will leave behind molted skins and fecal pellets as they develop. In their adult phase, carpet beetles can live between four to eight weeks.

Some varieties of carpet beetle may also infest plant-based materials, so it’s possible to find them in food or seed stores.

IS IT REALLY A CARPET BEETLE?

Because of their small frame and shape, other insects can be mistaken for carpet beetles (and vice versa). Carpet beetles resemble other nuisance pests like bedbugs and lady beetles (a.k.a. ladybugs) at first glance. When spotting any of these look-alikes, it’s important to make an accurate determination of the species so you can use the appropriate treatment method.

Though they feed on the same items as clothes moths, carpet beetles can do more severe damage. Carpet beetle larvae typically feed on a large area of one portion of a garment or carpet while moth damage is more likely to appear as scattered holes. Clothes moths typically build webs and carpet beetles do not.

TREATMENT METHODS

Due to their diverse taste, carpet beetles can be challenging to eliminate. But don’t be discouraged; it is possible to treat a carpet beetle infestation. As with many pest control solutions, proactive prevention techniques are the best way to keep these critters out of your home. Properly launder or clean items like furs, carpets, or woolen items that are traditionally stored for long periods of time. This will kill any existing eggs on the items and remove oils and grime that may attract carpet beetle larvae. Once cleaned, these items should be stowed away in sealable plastic bags or containers.

To treat an ongoing infestation, it is important to find and separate infested items as quickly as possible to prevent further contamination. Be sure to inspect items that are rarely used, shoved in the back of a closet, or tucked away in an area that does not have a lot of activity. Here’s where to check for larvae:

CLOTHING: Check along seams, folds, and creases. These are areas where larvae prefer to feed.

CARPETS AND RUGS: Larvae will typically infest the lower edges of carpeting or rugs. To check carpeted floors, use needle-nose pliers to lift the outer edge of carpet from the tack strip along baseboards.

OTHER NATURAL ITEMS: An abandoned bird’s nest in the attic, clumps of pet or human hair, dust bunnies, or upholstered furniture are favored places for carpet beetle larvae. Regularly check areas in the house that may be less traveled to ensure there is nothing that would be enticing to carpet beetles (or that is infested already).

Bag infested items before treatment to prevent the spread of the larvae. After all of the sources are found, launder or dispose of the infested items. Items that can be laundered should be washed with hot water to effectively kill all eggs and larvae. Items can also be heated in the dryer on the hottest setting.

For carpets and larger infested items, use a vacuum to remove all larvae and clean the area thoroughly. Be sure to get along the edges of carpets, which is where this insect likes to feed. For exceptionally hard-to-clean items like furs or taxidermy, thermal disinfestation can be used. Items should be sealed in plastic bags and placed inside a freezer stored at zero degrees Fahrenheit for at least a week.

After cleaning the infested area, check it regularly to ensure no larvae remain. Afterwards, simple housekeeping should help in preventing more carpet beetle infestations. Eliminate accumulations of lint, hair, dead insects, and other natural debris that serve as food for carpet beetles.

If do-it-yourself methods don’t work, enlist the help of a pest control professional. Our experienced team members are well equipped to handle carpet beetles or any other infestation the seasons bring to your home. Give us a call to set up a time for an inspection.

SOURCES

https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef601
https://burke.ces.ncsu.edu/2020/05/spring-is-here-and-so-are-the-carpet-beetles/
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7436.html
https://www.bobvila.com/articles/how-to-get-rid-of-carpet-beetles/