You have itchy, red blotches on your skin. Could they be carpet beetle bites? Do carpet beetles even bite?
Good questions. If you’re waking up with itchy welts on your skin, you want to know what’s causing it. Pronto.
We’re here to clear up any confusion surrounding carpet beetle bites and point you in the right direction so you can figure out exactly what is biting you.
Are These Carpet Beetle Bites?
Here’s the first thing you need to know: carpet beetle bites are a misnomer. There is simply no such thing.
Humans are not a food source for carpet beetles. In fact, carpet beetles don’t even possess the tools necessary to bite us. Whereas these pesky pests can cause a lot of damage to our homes, that is one nice thing we can say about them: carpet beetles don’t bite.
So where do the itchy, red bites come from? Here’s what you need to know about what carpet beetle bites actually might be.
Let’s dive right in.
What are Carpet Beetles?
Carpet beetles are exactly what they sound like: beetles that like carpet. They like carpet so much that they lay their eggs in it. And when those eggs hatch, the emerging carpet beetle larvae love to snack on carpet.
But here’s where things get a little tricky – not all carpet beetles like to eat carpet. It’s actually only the preferred diet of juvenile carpet beetles. Once carpet beetles grow up, they opt for a more plant-based diet.
Kind of like your cousin who is now proudly vegan. But you know she grew up on McDonald’s.
Which brings us to the most important thing you need to know about carpet beetles: All types of carpet beetles undergo what’s known to entomologists as complete metamorphosis.
Basically, that means that the adults look nothing like the juvenile bug.
All species of carpet beetles begin their lives as a wormlike larva covered with bristly hairs. The larvae are around 3/16″ to ¼ of an inch long, and will usually be found on or around whatever the bugs are eating.
These larvae are important for lots of reasons, which we’ll get into in a minute.
What Do Carpet Beetles Eat?
The first thing we need to be very, very clear on is this: there is a big difference between what adult carpet beetles eat and what carpet beetle larvae eat.
Adult carpet beetles have a diet that’s rather lovely. They feed on pollen, nectar, plants and flowers. They may also nibble on dried foods like flour, rice and seeds.
But carpet beetle larvae, well, let’s just say that carpet beetle larvae aren’t vegan. They’re total scavengers, and they feed on dead things. When we speak about carpet beetle damage – we’re exclusively talking about the damage done by carpet beetle larvae as they eat through your carpets, fabrics, and other precious items.
Adult carpet beetles know about their young’s disgusting diet and they will make sure to lay their eggs in places where their soon-to-hatch larvae will have plenty of access to the foods they love.
So the real question here is: what do carpet beetle larvae eat?
Young carpet beetles are a little unusual in that they are able to digest keratin, the protein that makes human fingernails as well as horns, hooves, and other parts of animals.
Therefore, carpet beetles can eat just about anything if it came from an animal. Feathers, fur, wool, and other natural fabrics are all on the menu for these tricky pests.
Carpet beetles aren’t picky eaters. They’ll eat just about anything that has protein and will stay still long enough to be eaten.
So does that food source also include humans?
Do Carpet Beetles Bite?
As you know by now, carpet beetles don’t bite people.
Carpet beetle larvae may be able to feed on a wide range of different foods but they don’t attack large animals. At least, not while they’re alive.
And adult carpet beetles feed on pollen and don’t have the kind of jaws necessary to bite people at all.
All in all, you’re not a food source for carpet beetles. So what’s causing the red, itchy blotches?
It Could Be Carpet Beetle Rash
That’s not to say that carpet beetles don’t cause problems. Several species of carpet beetles, including Common, Varied, Black, and Larger Cabinet Beetles can cause a sort of carpet beetle rash, an irritation of the skin.
Remember those fuzzy hairs carpet beetle larvae have? They aren’t there just to make the juvenile bugs look cool.
The bristly hairs are the larvae’s defense mechanism, and when disturbed, the bugs shed these hairs. The hairs can cause an allergic reaction that can be very intense and often feels and looks like bites.
This allergic reaction, often described as a carpet beetle rash, usually happens due to prolonged exposure to carpet beetle infestation, so it won’t happen right away. But the longer you live with the carpet beetles, the more likely you’ll react to them. Which is why it’s important to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
So no, carpet beetles don’t bite. But given that they can cause an allergic reaction that feels a lot like a bite, that may not be much consolation.
And of course, there’s the other issue: it may not even be carpet beetle rash. It could be a completely different bug that’s causing the bites.
What are Other Bugs in Carpet that Bite?
You may be reading this entire article because you’re convinced you have carpet beetles. You have itchy skin and you’ve found tiny bugs in the carpet. Which has led you to believe you’re dealing with carpet beetles.
But now you know that carpet beetles don’t bite humans, you may be re-thinking what may actually be lurking in your carpets.
So what other pest could it be? What are other bugs in carpet that bite?
The bad news is that carpet bugs aren’t the only pests that can live in your carpets. The good news is that there is a fairly short list of bugs that look like carpet beetles that may be the culprit. Here are the main contenders.
Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs
Carpet beetles and bed bugs don’t look that much alike. In fact, they’d probably be rather offended to be mistaken for the other.
But both pests are tiny, especially from our vantage point, and the differences may not be immediate to the untrained eye.
And bed bugs do fit the bill. They can live in carpet and yes, they do bite. Bed bug bite patterns even look very similar to carpet beetle rash.
To make things even trickier, both bed bugs and carpet beetle larvae are experts at hiding so you may not even have the chance to see the culprit in question.
So how do you know if it’s bed bugs or carpet beetles? Well, it’s actually not too difficult to know for sure.
Carpet Beetles vs Fleas
When it comes to tiny bugs that live in carpet and bite, fleas definitely fit the bill. They’re roughly the same size as carpet beetles as well so a case of mistaken identity can easily happen.
That being said, fleas have very different characteristics to carpet beetles. Sure, they can both live in carpet and yes, they can both cause some crazy itching. But the similarities stop there.
It’s fairly easy to tell the difference as long as you know the most common signs of fleas.
How to Treat Carpet Beetle Rash
If you’ve determined that it is not bed bugs nor fleas you’re dealing with, congratulations!
But you’re still left with an itchy, uncomfortable carpet beetle rash. So how do you treat it?
A carpet beetle allergy can be treated the same way you treat any other allergic reaction – with over-the-counter antihistamines or anti-itch creams. If you are severely allergic to carpet beetles, we recommend you ask your doctor about prescription medication.
But most of all, the best thing you can do to get rid of a carpet beetle rash is to get rid of the carpet beetles that are causing it.
We have a full, extensive guide below on how to do just that.
How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles Completely
And there you have it – everything you need to know about carpet beetle bites. Now go wipe out the infestation so you can be itchy no more. Good luck.