While there are four species of carpet beetles that are of concern to homeowners, the most important and commonly found in homes is the black carpet beetle. Most carpet beetles look pretty similar, being less than ¼ inch long in their adult stage, oval in shape, and black in color. The larva are actually larger in size than the adults, at a little less than ½ inch in length, carrot-shaped, and reddish or golden brown in color. The larvae have short hairs covering their body, with a long tuft of hair at the end of their abdomens.
It is actually the larvae of carpet beetles that cause the most damage. While they may be called carpet beetles, the larvae consume many other items in addition to carpet fibers. They tend to prefer any kind of animal product such as feathers, wool, skins, hair, furs, and dead insects, although they will also eat cotton and the larvae of the black carpet beetle also enjoy the taste of grains. This adds the danger of larvae infesting your pantry and contaminating your food. Larvae have also been known to eat blends of synthetic fibers and wool, such as that found in certain yarn, but because they can’t actually digest synthetic fabrics, the larvae have to consume much more of the material in order to get adequate nutritional requirements. This is often why there can be so much damage seen in a material after it has been tasted by carpet beetle larvae.
The first sign of an infestation is usually the presence of adult beetles on window sills, as they are attracted to light, are good fliers, and will gravitate towards areas like windows. Unfortunately, by the time the adults are spotted on window sills, the larvae have already had plenty of time to damage items in your home. In Maine, carpet beetles are most likely to be brought indoors on clothes, other kinds of cloth, and pretty much anything else people bring inside their home. Keeping your home clean and tidy is the best way to prevent infestations, and can help reveal infestations early before too much damage has been done. Any second hand clothes should be immediately dry-cleaned or washed as soon as they are brought home, you should clean any out-of-season clothing before you store it away, and it helps to check items that haven’t been used in a few months for any damage. Other than taking steps to prevent an infestation from occurring, carpet beetles are best handled by a pest control professional.
Have you ever had an infestation of carpet beetles in your home?