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Carpet Beetles

What Do Carpet Beetles Look Like?

image of a carpet beetle
Varied and black carpet beetles are common fabric pests in New England. An adult varied beetle has a mottled white, yellow, and tan oval-shaped body. The other species have a narrow form with solid black or brown coloring. Both are roughly the size of a pencil eraser, and they have wings hidden beneath hard outer casings.

Black carpet beetle larvae have reddish-brown tapered bodies with long, curled hairs at the end that resemble a tail. In contrast, a varied beetle larva has bristles along its entire frame. Either species may molt up to 20 times, depending on temperature and other conditions. People often mistake these cast-off skins for the actual pests.

How Can I Tell if I Have a Carpet Beetle Problem?

Adult carpet beetles lay their eggs in dark, undisturbed places. They choose areas behind baseboards or inside ducts and vents where pet fur or insect carcasses collect. Attics and other storage spaces are also prime targets. Signs of infestation include:

  • Damaged Fabric – The larvae eat wool, silk, leather, felt, and cotton, leaving a number of large, uneven holes in their wake.
  • Shedding – Fur items and taxidermy mounts affected by the pests may have bald patches or hair that shakes loose easily.
  • Clusters – Adult carpet beetles are strong fliers that are attracted to light. In spring, the pests gather on sunlit window sills and fly around doors in search of an exit.
  • Casings – Larvae often leave their light brown cast-off skins on surfaces where they’ve fed.

How Do Carpet Beetles Get Inside Homes and Businesses?

Carpet beetles live inside as well as outside. The adults may fly in through ripped screens or crawl through gaps around door or window frames. Eggs and larvae hide in secondhand rugs, clothes, or furniture brought home from a yard sale. Feathers and fur are also part of their diet, so bird nests on the roof or rodents in wall voids attract the pests as well.

Infested goods shipped to commercial spaces can start a widespread problem. Dead insects, lint, and grain-based products like dry dog or cat food all provide nutrition for carpet beetle larvae. Since the pests find meals so easily, they spread out to new areas in a short time. Warehouses, consignment shops, craft stores, and pet supply retailers are all at risk for carpet beetle issues.

Are Carpet Beetles Dangerous?

Most people don’t know they have a carpet beetle infestation until they discover ragged holes in a wool sweater or an heirloom rug. Unfortunately, these items are often beyond repair. And while the insects don’t bite or spread disease, contact with a larva’s bristly body may leave itchy welts on your skin.

The effects of an extensive carpet beetle problem can devastate a commercial warehouse or retailer’s inventory. In addition, historic sites and museums may see permanent damage to priceless artifacts, taxidermy, and period clothing when carpet beetles invade exhibits or storage areas.

How Can I Prevent Carpet Beetle Infestations?

Regular cleaning, careful vacuuming, and repairing cracks or torn screens are the best way to keep carpet beetles out of homes. Immediately wash or dry clean natural fabric items bought secondhand and do the same for clothes and rugs before storing them. Insect-proof bags or boxes keep leather jackets and handmade afghans safe, too.

Whether you’ve lost a favorite silk scarf or a box of commercial goods to these pests, contact the experts at Waltham Pest Services for help with carpet beetle – or any beetle – infestations.

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