What are carpet beetles and what do carpet beetles look like? If you have an infestation on your hands but don’t know exactly what carpet beetles are, join the club.
Carpet beetles are one of the most underrated household pests.
As far as bugs you may find in your house go, carpet beetles don’t get the press of their distant cousins, such as bed bugs and cockroaches. If bed bugs and roaches are the attention-grabbing Kardashians of the insect world, carpet beetles are more like a Tilda Swinton-style character actor (with apologies to Ms Swinton).
Mostly, they stay out of the headlines, but they are constantly working, doing their buggy thing without making news headlines. After all, they’re not red carpet beetles.
But enough of the celebrity comparisons.
Carpet beetles might not be media darlings, but they are a very common pest in homes and businesses across the US and around the world. So if you have been finding some unexpected bugs in your home, chances are good it’s carpet beetles you’re dealing with.
Here’s what you need to know to defeat them.
What are Carpet Beetles?
As is often the case with insects, the term’ carpet beetle’ can be misleading, describing several different species with similar appearances and habits. Carpet beetles are a type of dermestid beetle, a family of bugs that contains around 700 different species.
Most dermestid species are scavengers, relying on dead animals and animal products as a food source.
In fact, if you’ve ever watched one of those cop shows that feature a lot of autopsies, you may have come across species of dermestid beetles in the media, because they are very important in forensic entomology or the art of solving crimes by looking at bugs.
Dermestid beetles are even used to clean bones for displaying, as these industrious creatures will strip away every scrap of flesh if given enough time to do it.
Carpet beetles are a species of dermestid beetle that often become a problem in homes. They get their name from their habit of attacking carpets, eating the wool and damaging carpets and rugs.
But carpet beetles eat more than carpets, as we’ll find out in a moment. So don’t be too smug about your fancy hardwood floors.
What Do Carpet Beetles Look Like?
All carpet beetles share a similar body type and size. They all have hard wing cases that appear almost like a shell on the bug’s back and are split down the middle. They also have short antenna on their heads, and like all true bugs, they have six legs.
The standard carpet beetle size can be anywhere from 1/32″ to ½” long (1-12mm), and they tend to have an oval or almost circular body shape.
When seen from above, (and let’s face it, that’s almost always how humans see bugs) their heads are more or less invisible, since they keep them tucked under their bodies.
Within that basic blueprint, there is room for variation. A lot of room, in fact. Carpet beetles are a diverse bunch and come in slightly different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Let’s explore the most common carpet beetles.
Types of Carpet Beetles
The species of carpet beetle you’re most likely to find in your home are the black carpet beetle, the common carpet beetle, the furniture carpet beetle, the larger cabinet beetle, and the varied carpet beetle.
Though they share a similar body type, these beetles vary in appearance, so it’s important to figure out which is which.
Black Carpet Beetle
The Black Carpet Beetle is the most common of all carpet beetle species, and can be found throughout the United States and across North America.
Adults are around an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch long, and they are bright green with yellow spots.
Just kidding. Black Carpet Beetles are, unsurprisingly, black in color, or at least a dark brown.
Common Carpet Beetle
The Common Carpet Beetle is sometimes known as the Buffalo carpet beetle because it was a huge problem in Buffalo, New York, during the 1870s.
Around 1/16 of an inch to 1/8 of an inch long, the Common Carpet Beetle has a black body decorated with a pattern of white and red scales, making it considerably fancier than its plain black cousin.
Furniture Carpet Beetle
The Furniture Carpet Beetle is even fancier. These beetles have colorful spots on their bodies formed by yellow, black, and white scales.
The same size as a Common Carpet Beetle, these beetles get their name from their habit of feeding on upholstered furniture. They can also be found throughout the United States but struggle to live outside in northern climates, where they are instead restricted to living inside buildings.
Larger Cabinet Carpet Beetle
The Larger Cabinet Beetle is found worldwide, and at 1/16 of an inch to 3/16 of an inch long, isn’t all that large.
It has a dark body with a pattern of black and dark red scales on its wing covers. These bugs get their name because they are often found in kitchen cabinets.
Varied Carpet Beetle
Finally, the Varied Carpet Beetle is another member of the club. While it’s not exactly certain where this bug got its name from, it’s generally thought it’s because of the color variation it shows.
Around 1/16 of an inch to 1/8″ an inch long, the Varied Carpet Beetle has black, yellow, and white scales that look almost like stripes.
Whichever type of carpet beetles you have – and if you’re really unlucky, it’s perfectly possible to have more than one type in the same building – they all behave very much the same.
Do Carpet Beetles Fly?
Underneath those fancy and often colorful wing covers, carpet beetles have wings, and they are not afraid to use them.
Carpet beetles can and do fly, and although they generally prefer to crawl when given the chance, flying is what often bring them into houses.
Which means that unlike bed bugs and other pests, carpet beetles don’t need to be brought into the house in an infested piece of furniture or clothing. They can fly right in an open window and start an infestation from next to nothing.
And a carpet beetle infestation can be tricky. Not just because a lot of carpet beetle damage occurs in dark, undisturbed places. But because a carpet beetle can look and behave very differently depending on the stage of life it is in.
To better understand this, we need to take a look at the carpet beetle life cycle.
What Is the Carpet Beetle Life Cycle?
We get it. Learning about the life cycle of carpet beetles is nobody’s idea of a good time. And yet, it is crucial to know if you’re dealing with an infestation.
Here’s why: All carpet beetles go through a full metamorphosis. This means that the babies don’t look anything like the adults.
Even more importantly, carpet beetle babies don’t behave anything like the adults.
So to be able to identify carpet beetles in all life stages and then get rid of them, you’ll have to know a little bit more about each of the stages, which are:
So how does the carpet beetle life cycle begin? Let’s start at the beginning.
Carpet Beetle Eggs
When two carpet beetles love each other very much, they mate. And this is where the nightmare begins: a single pregnant female can lay around 90 eggs at a time.
Here are the most important FAQs about carpet beetle eggs:
Can you see carpet beetle eggs?
When you consider just how small a full-grown carpet beetle is, you can imagine how small the egg would be. Carpet beetle eggs are absolutely tiny, measuring up to a half millimeter in length.
That makes them just big enough to see with the naked eye but also very, very difficult to spot.
What do carpet beetle eggs look like?
Carpet beetle eggs are white or cream in color and an overall oval shape. Because of their small size, you may need a microscope to make out the exact parts but if you look closely, carpet beetle eggs have a slight spine-like protrusion at one end.
That being said, thanks to their size and color, carpet beetle eggs easily blend into the environment, which is why most people are blissfully unaware of a budding infestation at this earliest stage.
Where do carpet beetles lay eggs?
Carpet beetles may not teach their young to ride a bike or put together college funds for their future, but they show their parental love by laying their eggs on or near food sources that will soon-to-hatch babies will love. These food sources include furs, woolen fabrics, and other natural materials.
Newly hatched carpet beetle larvae also avoid the light so eggs will be laid in dark, hidden places where they won’t be disturbed, like the underside of a couch or other upholstered furniture, closets, behind baseboards, air ducts and even lint buildups.
How long does it take carpet beetle eggs to hatch?
Carpet beetle eggs take anything from 5 to 16 days to hatch under typical indoor, room temperature conditions, and a limbless larva emerges.
How to kill carpet beetle eggs?
Killing carpet beetle eggs is a great idea because you’ll get them before they’ve had a chance to cause any real damage. So how do you do it?
- Vacuum. Your trusty vacuum can help suck up and remove carpet beetle eggs before they become a problem. Make sure to use the nozzle to get into cracks and crevices.
- Laundry. Carpet beetle eggs will die at temperatures over 120°F so run the wash and dryer at the hottest settings. For items that can’t be washed and dried, dry cleaning will do the trick.
- Freezer. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, you can use extreme cold to kill carpet beetle eggs. Place the infested items in plastic bags and leave in a freezer that’s colder than -20°F (-30°C) for three days.
- Bleach. Mixing a solution of bleach and water in a 1:3 ratio can be an effective way to kill carpet beetle eggs. Spray it in areas that are infested.
The above are all great ways to kill carpet beetle eggs but our favorite is a steam cleaner. It’s the perfect tool since you can’t exactly freeze a sheepskin rug or spray bleach on your suede jacket.
Plus, vacuuming a deep-pile rug may not allow you to reach all the carpet beetle eggs that may have been laid there.
But a steamer can emit extremely hot steam that will kill carpet beetle eggs on contact. And these don’t have to be expensive. For example, the McCulloch Steam Cleaner heats water to over 200 degrees °F, which is more than enough to kill carpet beetle eggs. And it will cost you less than a professional steam cleaning.
Carpet Beetle Larvae
The larvae are one of the defining characteristics of all carpet beetle species. Not only do the larvae help distinguish carpet beetles from bed bugs and fleas, but this is the stage where they cause the most damage to your fabric and furniture.
Here are the most important FAQs about carpet beetle larvae:
What do carpet beetle larvae look like?
Carpet beetle larvae look nothing like carpet beetle eggs or adult carpet beetles. They actually look more similar to caterpillars.
Measuring in at around 4 to 5 millimeters in length, they’re much easier to spot. They’ll generally be oval-shaped (think: carrot shape) and brown-ish in color with stripes along their backs.
The most identifiable feature, though, is that carpet beetle larvae are absolutely covered with tiny bristles. And these little hairs can cause big trouble…
Do I have carpet beetle larvae bites?
One thing that is most misunderstood about carpet beetles is that they bite. Carpet beetles absolutely do not bite.
So why are you covered in what appear to be carpet beetle larvae bites?
Carpet beetle larvae shed the little hairs that cover their bodies. When you come into contact with these bristly hairs, it can provoke an allergic reaction that feels and looks a lot like insect bites.
This skin irritation is aptly called carpet beetle rash and is one of the infestation signs of carpet beetles.
What do carpet beetle larvae eat?
Carpet beetle larvae will hide from light and eat whatever animal-derived products they can find, such as a wool carpet, a leather couch, dead insects, and anything else they can get to.
That’s because in order to grow, these bugs have to find a source of keratin somewhere. As long as they have this constant food supply, the larvae will molt, shedding its skin to grow, around 5 to 10 times.
So when it comes to damaging your clothes and furniture, it’s the carpet beetle larvae you need to worry about. They cause most of the damage, chewing holes in fabrics before pupating to emerge as adults to mate and create more bugs.
I found one carpet beetle larvae…are there more?
You’ve found one carpet beetle larvae and are desperately hoping that it’s a lone traveler who unwittingly ended up in your home. We’re sorry to break it to you but the chances are that it is one of many.
Carpet beetle larvae do not sneak into your home from the great outdoors. And it’s not likely that they’ve hitchhiked on your clothes or belongings like bed bugs or fleas can. If you’ve found one carpet beetle larvae, it’s most likely that it hatched from one of many, many carpet beetle eggs that were laid in your home.
Where can I find a carpet beetle larvae nest?
A carpet beetle larvae nest can be a disgusting sight but it will allow you to quickly suss out an infestation and wipe out a whole load of these destructive pests.
So where do you look?
Carpet beetle larvae prefer dark, hidden areas with ample food nearby. The best places to check are:
- Natural fabrics like wool clothing or blankets that are not frequently used and stored away, thus less likely to be constantly disturbed
- Expensive clothing like wool coats, cashmere sweaters, and furs that haven’t been worn for awhile
- Wool or sheepskin rugs and carpets, especially the undersides and along carpet edges
- Areas where lint, pet hair, dust, and household debris tend to accumulate
- Furniture that’s very rarely moved or disturbed
It won’t be a pleasant sight, but it must be done. It can take 66 to 330 days for a carpet beetle larva to reach its final larval stage and pupate, though it could take as long as two years in some conditions. That’s a lot of time for them to munch through your valuable fabrics so you want to stop them as soon as you can.
How to get rid of carpet beetle larvae?
The carpet beetle larvae stage is the most destructive in a carpet beetle’s life cycle. So you want to get rid of them as soon as you can.
Here’s how to kill carpet beetle larvae:
- Vacuum. The humble vacuum is again one of the best ways to suck up and remove carpet beetle larvae from your home. It also sucks up potential food sources for carpet beetle larvae like hair and lint. Make sure you dispose of the vacuum bag immediately after you’re done.
- Sunlight. If the weather permits, you can let Mother Nature do the job by leaving infested items out in direct sunlight. Carpet beetle larvae will die at a temperature of 105°F for four hours. Larvae also hate the light so the bright sun may force them to evacuate the infested item.
- Laundry. A hot wash and dry is a good way to quickly kill off carpet beetle larvae.
- Freezer. Extreme cold kills carpet beetle larvae but make sure you place your items in a plastic bag so it doesn’t get freezer burn. Leave items in a freezer that’s colder than -20°F (-30°C) for at least three days.
- Steam cleaner. It’s natural, chemical-free and will produce steam so hot that it will kill carpet beetle larvae anywhere they are hiding – cracks and crevices, on the carpet, your entire closet, etc.
- Diatomaceous Earth. One of the go-to natural solutions in pest control, this fine powder dehydrates carpet beetle larvae to death. Sprinkle it over your carpet and under upholstered furniture.
- Boric Acid. Another natural pesticide to use on carpet beetle larvae. Scatter it in infested areas.
- Carpet Beetle Pesticide. If you want to bust out the big guns, the best pesticide for carpet beetle larvae is NyGuard Plus. It combines a pyrethroid that will kill carpet beetle larvae on contact with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) that sterilizes carpet beetle juveniles so they can never reproduce.
Keep in mind that the above ways to kill carpet beetle larvae are not mutually exclusive – feel free to combine the various methods for the fastest results.
Carpet Beetle Pupae
When the carpet beetle larva is ready, it makes a pupa within the skin of the last stage larva and enters its final life stage before becoming an adult.
These carpet beetle pupae are white and look like cocoons. They will be on or near the things they were eating during the larval stage.
Once the larva pupates, it will emerge after a week or two as a full-fledged adult.
To kill carpet beetle pupae, you can use most of the methods used to kill carpet beetle eggs and larvae. The one caveat is that because they are protected by cocoons, pesticide options like Diatomaceous Earth, Boric Acid, or NyGuard Plus may not work so well at this stage.
Adult Carpet Beetle
It is the final stage of a carpet beetle’s life cycle when it finally looks like an actual beetle. This is also the only time in a carpet beetle’s life when it’ll be able to fly. And it will use that ability to try to make its way outdoors.
That’s because the diet of a carpet beetle larva is disgusting to a full-grown carpet beetle.
Adult carpet beetles aren’t interested in chewing on your furniture and clothes. Instead, they prefer a plant-based diet of pollen and nectar. Even more importantly, the new adults are interested in finding other beetles to mate with.
And they don’t have a lot of time to do this – adult carpet beetles only live a couple weeks.
So desperate to mate and now attracted to light, they will try to find their way out of your home, which is when you may spot beetle-like bugs flying around your windows.
Outdoors, adult carpet beetles swarm together and find a partner, and the whole cycle repeats itself.
And the last thing you want is for the cycle to repeat in your home. So the best way to deal with adult carpet beetles is to avoid attracting them into your house to begin with.
How to Keep Carpet Beetles Away
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That applies to carpet beetles as well as to just about every other kind of pest.
Here’s the full guide on how to prevent carpet beetles from ever happening to you to begin with.
And remember – even if you’ve had carpet beetles once, you can always get them again. All it takes is just carpet beetle fluttering through your window, looking for some delectable natural fabrics for its young to eat.
The best thing you can do is implement the above carpet beetle prevention strategies and remember the signs of carpet beetles so that you never wind up with an infestation again. Good luck.