Carpet beetles are tiny, flying bugs that can inflict serious damage on carpets, clothing, and other fabrics. Learning how to identify these beetles and prevent infestations is the only way to protect your possessions from their destructive habits.
What are carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles belong to the Dermestidae family of beetles and are serious pests. These insects may infect warehouses, museums, homes, and anywhere else they can find a steady source of sustenance.
As their name suggests, carpet beetles sometimes infest carpets, where they can cause serious damage. Carpet beetles may also attack other fabrics, wool, felt, silks, furs, skins, leather, and stored food. Often, the damage caused by carpet beetles is the first thing that alerts homeowners to their presence and is often mistaken for the work of clothes moths.
How to spot a carpet beetle infestation
There are several different species of carpet beetles, but all have small, oval-shaped bodies (measuring up to 1/8 inch long) and six legs.
Their color varies between species and can range from black to mottled white, brown, orange, and yellow.
When inspecting your home for signs of carpet beetle infestation, look out for the following key indicators:
- Adult beetles
Adult carpet beetles won’t damage your stuff, but they will lay eggs and can be an indication of infestations. These tiny beetles are oval-shaped and come in a variety of colors.
Carpet beetle larvae are slightly longer than the adults, with tapered bodies and (often) tufts of hair. They may be shiny and smooth. Like the adults, they come in a range of colors and may be red, brown, white, or striped.
- Shed skins
Carpet beetle larvae periodically shed their skins, which are often found on infested fabrics. These skins look a lot like the living larvae and may be brown and bristly.
- Larvae poop
Besides their skins, carpet beetle larvae also leave their droppings on infested fabrics. These are dark in color and tiny (about the size of a grain of salt).
Carpet beetle life cycle
Adult carpet beetles lay their eggs on or nearby a suitable food source (such as furs or carpet), which hatch after around 2 weeks.
The emerging larvae are the most destructive stage of the carpet beetle life cycle. Whereas the adults feed primarily on pollen, their offspring will devour fabrics, and may even burrow into the food source before entering the next stage of their life cycle (pupation). During the larval stage, carpet beetles will also shed their skins and leave droppings wherever they have been feeding.
Do carpet beetles have wings?
Carpet beetle larvae are strictly terrestrial bugs, but adult carpet beetles do have wings. These are tucked away beneath a hard, shiny outer casing, so they aren’t easy to see unless the insect is in flight.
Can carpet beetles fly?
Adult carpet beetles do have wings, and they can fly. These insects typically live outdoors but will seek out dark, secluded places in which to lay their eggs. Often, carpet beetles end up indoors after flying in through open windows.
Can black carpet beetles jump?
If you have an issue with small, black, jumping bugs in your home, you may wonder if these are carpet beetles. However, these are more likely to be springtails (small, dark-colored, leaping insects) as carpet beetles can’t jump. Springtails are a nuisance, but they won’t damage your clothes, furniture, carpets, or property.
Carpet beetle control
Carpet beetles can cause widespread damage to carpets and other items if they are left to breed. If you have a carpet beetle infestation, you will need to act immediately to preserve your possessions. Even if you’ve never seen a carpet beetle in your home, they are widespread through the United States, Canada, and Mexico, so it’s a good idea to take preventative measures against them.
How to get rid of carpet beetles
- Vacuum up larvae and beetles: Once you’ve identified the location of your carpet beetle infestation, get to work removing the insects and their larvae. The easiest way to do this is with a vacuum cleaner, which should be used on all infested carpets and furniture at least once a day for a week.
- Throw away infested items: Items that are infested by carpet beetles are often badly damaged by the larvae. Throw these away (in the outdoor trash) to remove the feasting bugs from your home.
- Break out the boric acid: Sometimes, carpet beetles hide away in hard-to-reach places (like attics and wall voids). If this is the case, you can tackle them by sprinkling an even layer of boric acid over the infested area. Alternatively, you can whip up a boric acid spray by mixing one tablespoon of the powder with 2 cups of hot water.
- Use hormone-laced sticky traps: Hormone-based glue traps can be used to attract and trap carpet beetles. These should be placed near the site of infestation and checked once or twice a week.
- Sticky traps can also be used as a preventative measure against carpet beetles – simply set then up near open windows to trap any incoming bugs.
How to prevent carpet beetles
- Keep things clean: Staying on top of the vacuuming can help to prevent a carpet beetle infestation from taking hold. Pay close attention to areas that may be prone to infestation, and vacuum at least once every two weeks.
- Identify and remove outdoor harborage sites: Carpet beetles typically live outdoors and may hide away in old bird, bee, or rodent nests. Inspect the outside of your house for possible nesting sites, and have a tidy-up if necessary.
- Store fabrics securely: Unused fabrics should be securely stored in plastic containers to protect them from damage by carpet beetles and other pests.
Carpet beetles are tiny, flying insects that are known to infest carpets. They are found all over the United States, and their larvae can do significant damage to carpets, fabrics, furs, wool, silks, and leather.
Taking preventative steps (such as vacuuming regularly, setting up sticky traps, and removing possible nesting sites) is the best way to protect your possessions from carpet beetle damage.