How do you get rid of carpet beetles?
Home remedies like housekeeping, regular laundry and careful maintenance of openings and vents can be good preventative measures against the establishment of a beetle infestation. Because these animals are capable of surviving in remote locations, on little more than dust and condensation, it is important, once an infestation is established, to pair these home efforts with careful monitoring and a professional pest control treatment.
How to identify carpet beetles
Check out our beetle comparison chart to find detailed information the size, colour, shape, behaviour and life-cycle of carpet beetles and other common beetles.
Adult beetles range from 2mm to over 5mm in length; they have two sets of wings, a front pair that is hardened and leathery that protect the hind wings which are used by some beetles for flight. Common among this order are many-segmented antennae which end in a spherical club.
These beetles range in colour from brown to black and are distinguished by the mottled patterning of coloured scales on their backs and abdomens.
Carpet beetle larvae have a grub like appearance and long setae (wiry hairs) that cover their bodies, giving them a furry appearance. Larvae can reach over 15mm in length and can appear with a C-shaped, carrot-shaped or cigar shaped anatomy. Some species of beetle larva go through over 20 instar stages, shedding successive larval skins, as they grow and move towards pupation.
Identifying the exact species of pest in your home is crucial to implementing an effective, safe, and lasting pest control program.
Signs of a carpet beetle infestation
If you see bugs or larva around your bed, in your closet or your pantry you may be suffering from a carpet beetle infestation. Check out our beetle comparison chart to see if a specimen of a beetle or larva matches the descriptions.
Skin or respiratory
The most common false alarm we get for bed bugs is an individual who is experiencing skin irritations from dermestid beetle shed larval skins. Eggs are normally deposited on a reliable food source by the mother, and the hatched larvae tend to feed in a restricted radius of an indoor area. If this happens to be a bed or box spring, the shed carpet beetle instar skins can accumulate with astounding abundance, and in some cases can cause severe dermatitis in symptomatic individuals. The setae on these skins can also cause respiratory irritation, and have been linked to the development of rhinitis and respiratory asthma.
Beetle larvae can leave holes or chewed away tracks in clothing. If you are finding holes in wool sweaters cotton shirts or furs and you have not seen moths flying around your home, it is likely a carpet beetle issue.
Some carpet beetles are capable of digesting wood and will form extensive galleries inside of furniture or other wood in the home. Their exit holes are visible, approx 1.6-3mm in diameter, with a gritty, coarse frass beneath them. The galleries are a series of tunnels 1-2mm in diameter through the inside of wood furniture and beams.
How did carpet beetles get into my home?
Carpet beetles can enter a home through any open vent or hole. Many adult beetles are adept flyers and can enter the home in the warm season through an open window or door even in on an upper storey of a building or home. Carpet beetles always seek to lay their eggs on a reliable food source, in a favourable and sheltered environment. Most beetles will make their way indoors in order to seek out the best place to lay their eggs.
It is also possible to pick up larvae, eggs or adult carpet beetles in public locations, laundromats, waiting rooms, public transit or schools and universities.
While they are common in many households and can survive for long periods without becoming a nuisance, if they have ample feeding sources and shelter to reproduce in a pest-like manner, they can grow to unmanageable numbers in a short span of time.
What do carpet beetles eat?
Despite their name carpet beetles feed on a variety of plant and animal materials. The largest concern for a carpet beetle infestation in a home is not the adult beetles which often feed on nectar and pollen outdoors, but rather the larvae. Larvae are extremely active eaters as they are working to power their rapid growth and eventual metamorphosis in the pupal stage. While in some species the larval stage will only last a week or less, the black carpet beetle, one of the most common infestors in North America, can remain in its larval form for up to 3 years.
Different species will feed on different materials, from structural wood, soft wood, any animal product, any natural fibres including wool, cotton, polyester, rayon, furs or feathers as well as grains, wheat, seeds, oats, rice, nuts, beans, dried fruit, pet food, and even cardboard, glue, seed borne microfungi, and the shed skins or carcasses of other insects. Beetles and Weevils frequently infest rodent, bird, and wasp nests. Removal of nests can be crucial to eliminating the source of an infestation
How serious are carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles and be extremely damaging to household fabrics, furniture and can cause significant structural damage to wooden support beams or decks.
While they are not associated with the transmission of pathogens to humans, they can nevertheless cause allergic irritation, respiratory irritation, structural damage and economic loss.
How Addison Can Help Eliminate a Carpet Beetle Infestation
The best place to begin with controlling a beetle or weevil infestation is to eliminate the infested material and their primary feeding sources. Most beetles will reproduce much slower, and develop more gradually when food and water are scarce. Most beetles are unable to survive for long periods in extreme cold or extreme heat. Packing infested materials into a freezer below 0°C for at least five days, or laundering fabrics on a high heat wash and dry cycle will eliminate beetles, pupa, larva and eggs from those materials. All infested grains, animal or plant material, should be disposed of, and additional potential feeding sources should be stored in thick plastic or glass, air-tight containers. All entry points to the home should be secured, including heat cent outputs, dryer vents, window and door thresholds, attics and roofs. Because beetles often establish themselves in heating ducts, and wall cavities where they can survive on dead skin cells, dust and condensation on pipes, these measures alone will often not be sufficient to eliminate an infestation completely.
Heat is an important part of a professional pest control plan. It is a physical rather than chemical pest control method which helps to diversify the pest control program and works against the development of insecticide resistance in pests.
We use high powered directional heat guns primarily to eliminate eggs which are not susceptible to chemical treatments. We apply high heat in short bursts to any area that we discover eggs or where eggs are likely to be laid.
Targetted heat treatments are completely safe for furniture, art, books, beds and all other household belongings. Our heat treatments leave behind no markings or damage on any infested material.
Powder Crack and Crevice Treatment
We use a professional power duster to puff a fine silica powder inside cracks and crevices in infested areas. Carpet beetles often pupate or hide in wall cavities or ducting. The powder coats the insides of the wall voids killing pests that are already established there and preventing pests from using these physically inaccessible areas as hiding or harbourage zones.
The powder is also used on sensitive electronic items that are at risk of an infestation such as a power bar or a wall outlet.
Residual Surface Spray
At Addison, we use the highest quality residual spray available on the market. Unlike the sprays used by many competitors, our spray has a 3-month residual value, which means it remains active and continues to kill bugs for a full three months.
Our spray is a non-toxic pyrethroid, which means it is a synthetic replica of a naturally occurring insecticide manufactured by plants to ward off potential predators.
The spray is applied to the backs, sides, and bottoms of beds, furniture and kitchen appliances, inside kitchen and bathroom drawers and cabinets, as well as all the floors and baseboards.
Any time a carpet beetle passes over a surface that has been sprayed it will die-off within a short period after making contact.
How Addison can help Prevent Carpet Beetle Infestations in the Future
Sealing up potential access points is crucial to ensuring a pest free home.
As part of our service, a trained Addison technician will identify and seal up potential entry points or bring more critical structural issues to your attention.
Since carpet beetles can gain access to the home in so many ways, many homeowners take up Addison’s a quarterly preventative treatment plan. This treatment plan will offer you complete protection against a variety of insects including bed bugs, cockroaches, carpet beetles, ants, meal moths and other invasive pests. As part of this program we apply a preventative treatment 3-4 times/year, conduct regular inspections for potential new entry points or structural insecurities, and revisit your home whenever you need a further inspection or treatment at no extra charge.
Give us a call for a free no obligation quote a preventative program.
Carpet Beetles are part of the biological order Coleoptera, the largest order in the animal kingdom that includes all beetle and weevils encompassing over 200,000 known species!
All Coleoptera undergo complete metamorphism, meaning they have four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Certain species with high reproductive potential will yield 4-5 generations per year in batches of up to 900 eggs per generation. Other beetles lay their eggs singly and undergo more gradual development having longer life stages.
Common Beetle Species in the North American Home
Common Furniture Beetles
These pests can be enormously damaging to wood furniture and structural wood. They will make extensive galleries through the interior of wood structures. Their exit holes are visible, approx 1.6-3mm in diameter, with a gritty coarse frass beneath them. The galleries are a series of tunnels 1-2mm in diameter through the inside of wood furniture and beams. These wood-eaters prefer semi-soft woods like pine and spruce, though they will also go after hardwoods, especially in temperate climates. These pests require large concentrations of nitrogen for their development. Since wood loses nitrogen content as it ages, they will make even more extensive galleries in older woods to receive their required amount of this nutrient.
Recognizing these pests by their exit holes and frass is crucial to homeowners with wood frame houses, and treasured wooden furniture. Female will lay between 20-80 eggs per year which can cause an infestation to grow at an astounding rate.
For extensive anatomy and behaviour check out our Beetle Comparison Chart
Furniture Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus flavipes)
Like most dermestid beetles, the most invasive and damaging life stage of this bug is the larva. Adults feed on nectar and pollen of plants in the parseley family, whereas the larvae feed on wool, silk, fur, feathers, cotton, linen, rayon, jute and other natural fibres or natural fibre blends. These larva require keratin for their full development and so will seek diverse feeding sources. They can survive on mould, dried cheese, or even cardboard and wood. Larvae that feed exclusively on wool will not fully develop.
The colour of larvae of this species will vary considerably based on their diet, ranging from a yellowish white to a dark reddish brown. They are covered in long brown setae (hairs) and have a bundle of elongated setae protruding from the posterior end of their abdomen.
Look for these larvae in dark, warm areas with ample feeding sources.
Common Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus Scrophulariae)
These carpet beetles are most common in temperate regions of Europe and North America. The adult beetles will spend most of their life outdoors, feeding on pollen and nectar of flowering plants, acting as effective pollinators. Once fertilized the female will find her way indoors, laying a batch of 40-60 eggs in a dark, secluded area close to or directly on reliable feeding sources. The female dies immediately after laying her eggs. These beetles are adept flyers, and kind find their way into the home through open doors or windows without proper screens.
The larvae feed on wool, silk, fur, feathers, cotton, linen, rayon, jute and other natural fibres or natural fibre blends. The larvae develop over a 60-80 days period. Voracious feeders, these larvae can do significant damage to clothing, textiles, furniture and carpets.
Because the adults move outdoors to gather pollen and nectar as their primary food source, infestations indoors are limited to the offspring of single females beetles that find their way into the home.
Check out our Beetle Comparison Chart for a full description of the common carpet beetle anatomy and mating behaviour.
Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci)
These beetles have been extraordinarily destructive in natural history museums where they have caused damage to insect and taxonomical specimens. The larvae are used by taxonomists as a method to clean the animal bones of all remaining organic material. If not properly controlled however, adults will escape and lay eggs outside of this targeted applications, and larva will begin feeding on unintended specimens. Larvae are not limited to animal material, they will also feed on seeds, wheat, oat, rice, cheese products, dried fruit and nuts. They are capable of digesting keratin and chitin, and can also feed on carpet, furniture, clothing and textiles.
Black Carpet Beetle (Attagenus unicolor)
In North America the black carpet beetle is among the most common and destructive species of dermestid beetle. As larvae, these beetles will feed on a variety of food stuffs, fabrics, plant and animal products. They commonly occur in rodent, bird or wasps nests, so they may be a by-product of another pest problem occurring in your home. They may remain in the larval stage for up to 3 years feeding voraciously on silk, wool, feathers, cotton, hair, fur, fishmeal, cereals, pet food, nuts, dried cheese, flour and other foods and fabrics. They most commonly infest carpets, closets, beds, laundry hampers and couches. They prefer humid, dark and secluded areas with ample food sources.
The coarse hairs on their shed larval skins can cause dermatitis and irritation of the respiratory tract. These carpet beetles are one of the most common false alarms for bed bugs, because they are so widespread and because the skin irritation caused by the larval skins is easily mistaken for bed bug bites.
Still not sure what type of beetle you have in your home? Send us a photo – our in-house entomologist will tell you exactly what bug you have found. Or check out our Beetle Comparison Chart for a full description of these and other beetle anatomy and mating behaviour.