Where do carpet beetles come from? What causes carpet beetles? And why do bad things happen to good, clean homes?
If the above questions sound familiar, it’s because that is the stream of consciousness most people go through when they are plagued with a carpet beetle infestation.
So let’s find out. Here’s how these pesky pests broke in.
Where Do Carpet Beetles Come From?
You’re not interested in where carpet beetles come from because you want to know about their history. Nope, you only care so that you can avoid them in the future.
Unfortunately, carpet beetles are a fact of life. They can be found all over the United States and around the world, from the Americas to Europe to Australia.
Adult carpet beetles have a diet of pollen and nectar so they happily live and breed outdoors especially in the warmer months. You’ll find them drawn to plants that produce abundant pollen like crape myrtles, spiraea, buckwheat, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Because they like sunlight, adult carpet beetles prefer the great outdoors to the stuffy, dark confines of a human home. Which may lead you to wonder: how did they get into your house?
How Do You Get Carpet Beetles?
Adult carpet beetles prefer to live their lives outdoors. But they don’t have much time to enjoy themselves.
The typical adult carpet beetle only has around two to six weeks to live. During that time, they must mate and then lay their eggs in a safe, preferably dark place that has plenty of food sources for their soon-to-hatch babies.
Your home is the perfect place. But how do they actually get in?
- They fly in. Because adult carpet beetles can fly, they can easily fly in through an open window or door. Any small cracks and crevices around doors are fair game too. Add to that plumbing pipes, ductwork, air vents, chimneys, and you can see there are plenty of ways for carpet beetles to gain entry into your home and set up a nest.
- You bring them in. You may also unwittingly bring stowaway carpet beetles into your home via items like plants and flowers, animal furs and skins, taxidermy animals, and already infested rugs, blankets, and clothing.
Carpet beetles are small, which makes sneaking into your home easy work.
What Attracts Carpet Beetles?
Adult carpet beetles are attracted to light. So if you leave a door or a window open in the dim evening hours, that is like a beacon for females looking for a home with ample food options to lay her eggs.
But just because you attract a carpet beetle or two into your home doesn’t mean you’re going to have an infestation on your hands. The adult carpet beetle that got into your home will try to fly out or die trying. The real worry is the eggs that she laid and what the soon-to-hatch larvae will be attracted to.
So what attracts carpet beetle larvae? Most carpet beetle larvae need protein, specifically keratin, to grow. But that is by no means the only thing they’ll eat. Here’s a quick look at the food sources that attract carpet beetles:
- Wool and wool-blend carpets, rugs, blankets, and clothing
- Silk bedding and clothing
- Felts – even the ones in pianos
- Skins – yes, this includes your sheepskin rug
- Leather and suede clothing and footwear
- Hair brushes with natural bristles
- Taxidermy animals
- Horns and bone
- Upholstered furniture
- Dead insects
- Glue and book bindings
- Hair from both humans and pets
- Dander from both humans and pets
- Dried meats
Some species of carpet beetles can be more attracted to what’s in your pantry, like:
- Cake mixes
- Plant proteins like beans, peas, and corn
- Grains like wheat, rice, pasta, cereals and flour
- Powdered milk
- Pet foods
As you can see, carpet beetles aren’t picky eaters. There are a lot of food sources these scavenging pests are attracted to. The only good thing that can be said about the carpet beetle’s appetite is that it doesn’t include humans.
Another bit of good news? Once you know the true causes of carpet beetles, you can easily remove all the things that are attracting them into your home.
What Causes Carpet Beetles?
Getting carpet beetles is hugely a matter of chance. For most home, there’s little to stop a carpet beetle from finding its way into your home and setting up a nest.
But whether a nest of carpet beetles will survive in your home? That’s another story.
There are several causes that can make your home particularly appealing for carpet beetles. Here are the biggest ones.
Measuring in at 2 to 5 millimeters, even adult carpet beetles are tiny. That’s why it’s so easy for them to gain entry into your home.
That’s why one of the easiest ways to prevent carpet beetles is simply sealing up your entryways.
Birds and the Bees
Carpet beetles are also often associated with bird nests, since they will feed on feathers, droppings, and other waste the birds produce. If you have a lot of bird nests on or near your house, you may be at a high risk for carpet beetle infestation.
The same applies with other insects. Having a bee or wasp colony in your attic can often lead to a secondary infestation of carpet beetles, as they are attracted to the dead bees.
Carpet beetles have huge appetites and a diverse palate. This is why one of the most common signs of carpet beetles is finding holes and other damage to fabrics.
Whether it’s your wool-blend rug or your cashmere shawl, they’ll eat it. Silken sheets and the down feathers in your duvet are a great snack as well. And if you have furs, skins, or a stuffed and mounted animal on display, well, those all make delicious meals for carpet beetle larvae.
Naturally, the more of these food options carpet beetles have access to, the more likely they’ll thrive.
There isn’t a strong link between poor sanitation and carpet beetles like there is with cockroaches, for example. So you can still have carpet beetles in an otherwise clean home.
But an uncleaned home provides much more food sources for carpet beetles.
As you know by now, carpet beetles will eat a lot of foods that humans eat, but also many that we won’t. Carpet beetles will eat things like hair, dander, and even lint. So the dirtier your home is, the more food there is for carpet beetles to survive on.
Not Doing Laundry
In a similar vein, not doing laundry frequently can contribute to the carpet beetle problem. Sounds strange that this could be a cause of carpet beetles but hear us out.
Laundry helps fight carpet beetle infestation in two important ways. First, washing and drying clothes and bedding at high temperatures can kill any carpet beetles living in those fabrics. So doing a regular wash can put a dent in any budding carpet beetle infestation.
And it doesn’t stop there: laundry also washes away the oil and sweat that our bodies release onto the clothes we wear and the bedding we sleep on. These oil and salt deposits on fabrics enhance the nutritional content and quite possibly the taste of these fabrics for carpet beetles.
In fact, carpet beetles are so attracted to the sweat and oil we release that they will consume cotton, linen and even synthetic fibers as long as they’re soiled.
Carpet Beetle Prevention Tips
Simply reading about the most common causes of carpet beetles should give you an idea on how to prevent these pesky pests. Here are a couple more carpet beetle prevention tips to add to the pile:
Clean regularly. Removing buildup of lint, human hair, and dander with regular vacuuming and mopping can help reduce the numbers of carpet beetles you’ll get by eliminating some of these food sources.
Do the laundry frequently. It’s bad enough to have carpet beetles eating your clothes. Let’s not make it tastier for them. Laundry at the hottest setting will also kill carpet beetles.
Switch to synthetic fabrics. If you’re currently harboring an infestation of carpet beetles and willing to make some changes to your interior decor, now is the time. Synthetic carpets and rugs don’t attract carpet beetles. Ditto for synthetic bed sheets.
Store natural fabrics properly. If you can’t bear to part with cashmeres, silks, leather and suede in your wardrobe – make sure you store these fabrics away in tighly-sealed, airtight bags.
Freeze taxidermy specimens. If you have game trophies or other mounted animals, periodically freeze them for at least two weeks to kill off any carpet beetles that may be living there.
Be wary of bird nests. It’s a good preventative move to remove any bird nests around your house. Bird nests attract carpet beetles so having them in close proximity to your home increases the chance of an infestation.