Identification and Life Cycle
Carpet beetles belong to the family of beetles known as Dermestids. There are three common types most frequently encountered in New York State: The Varied Carpet Beetle, Furniture Carpet Beetle and Black Carpet Beetle.
The adult Black Carpet beetle (Attagenus Megatoma) has a dull black body about ¼ inch long with brown antenna and legs. The larvae’s body is carrot-shaped with golden brown hair and a long tail.
The other two species, the Varied Carpet beetle (Anthrenus Scrophulariae), and the Furniture Carpet beetle (Anthrenus Flavipes) can be very difficult to tell apart because their appearance and habits are alike. Both adult species are less than ¼ inch in length, and have a pattern of scales; dull white, yellow, dark gray and a reddish brown. The larvae are covered with long, dark brown hairs.
Carpet beetles develop an uninterrupted cycle in areas of the home where temperatures are held at a comforting warm level throughout the year. Each female carpet beetle may lay 30 to 100 eggs. Eggs usually are laid on clothing, on lint in cracks, in dusty heating vents or on dead insects that have accumulated inside light fixtures. The adult beetles, after laying their eggs move outdoors to feed on flower pollen. The eggs hatch within 2 weeks and the larvae now begin their descructive feeding for up to 9 months. The young carpet beetles avoid light during this period of growth and occasionally shed their skins as they develop.
Habits and Damage
The adult carpet beetle does not feed on fabrics, but feeds on the pollen of plants. It is the larval stage that does the damage. The adults usually appear in the months of May and June by entering homes in through cracks, or coming in on flowers or clothes. The larvae do not make webs as clothes moths do, but they shed skins and deposit fecal pellets. Fecal pellets are about the size of a grain of salt, making it obvious where they have been feeding. They also leave a brown, shell-like, bristly looking cast skin when they molt. These skins and the lack of webbing are usually good clues that they are carpet beetles.
Carpet beetle larvae do not bite people, eat wood or carry diseases, but can damage stored items. Larvae feed in dark, undisturbed locations on a variety of dead animals and animal products, such as wool, silk, leather, fur, hair brushes with natural bristles, pet hair, and feathers. They are attracted to certain types of soil and stains, such as perspiration, urine, grease and food stains. Occasionally, they feed on stored food products such as certain spices and grains as well as dry dog and cat food. They do not feed on synthetic fibers.
Damage may range from the clipping of an occasional fiber to the entire destruction of articles left undisturbed for several months or more. In general, the beetles are more likely to damage a large area on one portion of a garment or carpet while moth damage more often appears as scattered holes.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy for carpet beetle control is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can help maintain a pest-free environment.
Carpet beetles are difficult pests to control because of their ability to find food in hidden places, and to scatter widely throughout a structure. Examine locations where they would be likely to infest, such as in areas where lint, especially dog or cat hair tends to accumulate. Also, check in floor cracks, under and along carpet edges, and on window sills where dead insets may collect.
In addition, the following tips are recommended to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with Carpet beetles.
- Vacuum pet hair that accumulates around your home
(a common food source for carpet beetle larvae).
- Vacuum carpets and rugs frequently.
- Store clean clothing and other textile items in tight fitting containers.
- Carefully examine any second-hand textiles you bring into your home for carpet beetles or larvae.
- Remove abandoned nests left by birds, wasps, hornets, and rodents in eaves, attics, and wall spaces.
- Store pet food in air-tight containers.
- Dry clean or launder clothing, blankets, and other washable items in hot water. This will kill all stages.
- Cleaned items should be sealed in a protective plastic bag or other suitable container.
- Brushing items outdoors, and leaving them in the sun can help eliminate the eggs & larvae.
- Food & perspiration stains on fabrics attract carpet beetles. Make sure items are cleaned before storing in airtight containers or in a protective plastic bag.