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Carpet Beetles? Not Just for Carpets. . .

Seeing an unidentified bug crawling across the carpet can really be upsetting, but when you know what kind of creature it is, there’s often less to worry about. That’s why it’s good to take a careful look at the tiny insect, and see what markings you can identify. With a little knowledge about the kinds of bugs that are common to your location, you can put your mind at ease about most bugs. You can also know when it’s a good idea to reach out to someone who can help you get rid of the bugs you definitely don’t want in your house. To help you learn more about some great (and not so great insects), here’s what you need to know about the carpet beetle.

Where to Find the Carpet Beetle

Carpet beetles are common in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, but they can be found throughout the United States, says the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky. The Midwest tends to have more carpet beetles than other locations, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find one in Washington, Florida, or New Hampshire. They’re a very common bug, and there are a lot of them around. Kitchen cupboards, areas where clothing is stored, and wool carpets are common places to find the carpet beetle, but those aren’t the only house locations where you’ll have the chance of seeing the little bug.

Carpet Beetle

These insects get into all sorts of places because they are very tiny, and the larvae will eat nearly anything that is an animal product. That includes leather, other dead insects, hair, silk, wool, feathers, and dried meat. If they can’t find those things, then they will eat dead plant matter instead. There are black carpet beetles, as well as other types of carpet beetles that are different colors. They are all part of the same family and are similar in size and shape, but their larvae can be quite different from one another. That can make identification more challenging in some cases.

What the Carpet Beetle Looks Like

The carpet beetle is typically between 2.5 and 5 mm long, and is black, reddish brown, brown, or tan. These beetles are also covered with short hairs that are sparse. The first segment of the hind legs is a lot shorter than the second, and you can identify females by their shorter antenna. The males have a second antenna segment that is twice as long as what would be seen in a female carpet beetle. Larvae can reach up to 13 mm in length, and the larvae of the black carpet beetle are different from other types of carpet beetles.

Carpet Beetle Up Close

These black carpet beetle larvae are carrot shaped and elongated, with a chocolate brown or golden brown color. At the tail end of their body, these larvae have a tuft of hair that is golden brown and color, and is often long and curled. Other carpet beetle larvae do not have this tuft of hair, nor do they have the same kind of coloring. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, in order to be sure that a beetle is a carpet beetle, it is important to know what the larvae and the beetles themselves look like, where to find them in the home, and how to separate them from other beetles that look similar in color and size.

The Bug’s Life Cycle

According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, a carpet beetle “can lay from 42 to 114 eggs, and averages around 50.” The eggs are pearly white and very small. They can be found near the baseboards of homes, on any wool clothing that is being stored, and in other carefully protected locations, such as the duct work of a furnace where the warmth will help with incubation. In warm weather it only takes between six and 11 days for the egg to hatch, but cooler weather could stretch that time out another 5 to 16 days beyond the warm-weather incubation time. Once the larvae hatches, they immediately look for food.

Hatched Larvae

They also stay away from light, and can live from around 250 days all the way up to more than 625 days. There is such a large variation in lifespan based on humidity, temperature, and the larvae’s ability to find proper food sources that offer a lot of protein. The larvae will also molt during this time, and that can take place from 5 to 20 times, again depending on how favorable the conditions are for the larvae to grow and develop. Once the larvae turns into a pupae, that stage is much shorter. It only lasts from six days to 24 days. Beetles stay in the pupal skin that has been partially shed from two to 20 days, before they finally emerge complete.

Once the beetle becomes an adult it lives from a short two weeks to several months, depending on conditions. It won’t do any damage to household goods or furnishings during that time, as all of the damage caused by a carpet beetle is done by the larvae. Instead, carpet beetles that have fully matured are interested in light, and they often head for windowsills or even go outside and eat pollen off of the plants. By the time the female carpet beetle has appeared on the window ledge or gone outside to crawl around on the flowers, she has already laid her eggs for the next generation of carpet beetles to emerge. She will die a few days after those eggs have been laid, in most cases.

How This Insect Gets into Your Home

The adult carpet beetle likes flowers, and may fly into the house during warm weather in the springtime. Additionally, larvae can come inside on used clothing, or even in dry dog food. Animals that die in chimneys of homes can also be a source of food for the larvae, which can then make their way down the chimney and into the rest of the house. Finding a couple of carpet beetles in a house isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Many houses have a few. However, seeing a lot of them can mean that there’s a problem with infestation, and that’s true of seeing a lot of the larvae, as well.

Carpet Fibers

Once in a home and established, carpet beetles can become a real problem for woolen items and other things that they may damage. Plus, finding their larvae and the beetles themselves around is very unappealing to most homeowners. With that in mind, it can be important to reduce the chances of these bugs getting into your house by sealing up any obvious gaps and doing what’s necessary to keep your home cleaned well. Additionally, finding larvae or adult beetles could mean the need to treat the house, either on your own or professionally, to get rid of the bugs and help keep them from coming back.

Reduce the Risk of a Carpet Beetle Infestation

Locating the source of the infestation is important when there are carpet beetles in your home. It could be stored clothing, the carpets, or something else. By finding the infestation or working with a professional to do that, you can have a better chance of getting them out of your house. Then you’ll just need to take steps to keep them out, so you can have a bug-free home as much as possible. The climate you live in can affect how likely you are to have trouble with carpet beetles, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune if you live in a climate where they aren’t as popular. If they get a foothold they can still be a problem in your home.

Carpet Removal

Since carpet beetles can cause dermatitis and other problems, it’s important to remove any infestation from your home as soon as possible. Most people won’t be bothered physically be carpet beetles, but they may see damage to clothing or other soft goods. Emotionally, these insects can also be a problem. If there is a legitimate phobia toward bugs, or if someone has a difficult time with insects, finding them in the home can make living there uncomfortable. Steps should be taken to reduce the number of carpet beetles found in the home, and eliminate them if possible.

Treatment for Carpet Beetles Can Vary

Sometimes it’s not possible to find the source of the infestation. In that case, you’ll need to take a more widespread approach in your treatment. That can include chemicals and pesticides, professional treatment, and options such as diatomaceous earth or silica aerogel. Those are both desiccants, which cause moisture loss in insects that results in death. These treatments can be less dangerous than some types of chemicals, and can be injected into wall voids or dusted into crevices and cracks to reduce the chances of the beetles and larvae surviving or finding food sources.

Thorough Carpet Cleaning

Cleaning the home really thoroughly can also help, as can disposing of items like woolen clothing that haven’t been properly stored. It’s important to remember that pesticides are poisons, though, and that they have to be treated with care. When used correctly, they can help reduce or eliminate carpet beetles and larvae in the home, but if they are overused they can cause harm to people, pets, and plants. Sometimes hiring a professional can help, but talk with them about the types of treatments they’ll be using and any concerns you have, so you don’t have to worry about doing more harm than good when getting rid of carpet beetles.