What are Carpet Beetles? (How to Identify and Get Rid of Carpet Beetles)

Carpet beetles get their name from what they're most notorious for infesting: carpeting and other home textiles.

That's right, carpet beetles beyond repair. If you're like most homeowners, then you need to make sure your house stays free of the little culprits.

That's where we come in, bringing you everything you need to know how to identify and get rid of carpet beetles.

How to Identify Carpet Beetles

This Pest Strategies guide will cover the following:

  • What is a carpet beetle?
  • Are carpet beetles poisonous or dangerous?
  • What do carpet beetles look like?
  • And tips to keep carpet beetles away.

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What is a Carpet Beetle?

A carpet beetle is a common pest that infests and damages upholstered furniture. As their name implies, carpet beetles are widely known for infesting, laying eggs, and eventually damaging carpets.

Carpet beetles are similar to clothes moths when it comes to feeding on various textiles and fabrics such as wool, fur, silk, felt, leather, feathers, and skins.

The reason behind the destructive effects of carpet beetles on said materials is because they contain keratin, which is a fibrous animal protein that the larvae can break down and digest.

This explains why carpet beetles rarely attack cotton and synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester. However, if these materials are blended with wool or heavily stained with food remnants or bodily oils, they'll be equally at risk.

Check out the video below for some tips and tricks for getting rid of carpet beetles:

Are Carpet Beetles Poisonous or Dangerous?

No, but that doesn't mean they can't do damage. Carpet beetles are definitely one of the most harmful insects to invade houses. While they don't bite people or feed on blood, carpet beetles have mouths that are built to chew, so they can cause significant damage to objects and furnishings around your home.

Additionally, carpet beetles may end up giving you red itchy skin if your body develops an allergic reaction from the prickly hairs that cover their larvae.

These destructive pests don't stop at gnawing away your belongings, but they can also carry microbes and spread diseases. How? Well, the mechanism is pretty much the same as many species of insects.

When carpet beetles come in contact with foods that are left open, they leave saliva and feces on these foods so they become a threat to people's health. If a human consumes contaminated food, the present germs can cause serious bacterial infections and diseases.

As for being poisonous, there's good news! Carpet beetles are not poisonous and they don't bite people or animals. However, they can get you sick if you eat food that they have contaminated, as well as cause excessive damage to fabricated objects and carpets in your household.

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What Do Carpet Beetles Look Like & How Do I Identity Them?

If you want to prevent or get rid of carpet beetles, then you should be able to actually recognize them in the first place.

Generally speaking, carpet beetles are tiny insects with a size ranging from 1/16 to ⅛ inches long. They're oval-shaped and their bodies vary in color from solid black different mottled patterns of brown, yellow, white, and orange.

Carpet beetles exist in several species, the most widespread ones are the black carpet beetle, the varied carpet beetle, and the common carpet beetle. 

The black carpet beetle

Scientifically known as Attagenus unicolor, the black carpet beetle is true to name where the adult insect has a bullet-shaped body that's dark-brown or black in color.

Adult black carpet beetles range in size between ⅛ and ⅕ inches long. They feed on fabrics as well as stocked products such as grains.

black carpet beetle

Larvae of the black carpet beetle grow to reach about ¼ to ½ inches long. Their reddish-brown bodies are carrot-shaped and covered with golden-brown hairs.

The varied carpet beetle

The varied carpet beetle, scientifically known as Anthrenus verbasci, feeds on different types of fabrics and fibrous materials, in addition to dead insects.

Adult varied carpet beetles range in length from 1/16 to ⅛ inches. They have rounded bodies with wing covers (elytra) covered in irregular patterns of white, yellow, and brown spots. This gives varied carpet beetles a unique blotchy appearance.

varied carpet beetle

Their larvae measure up to ⅕ inches long. They have elongated bodies covered in large stiff hairs that look like brown stripes.

The common carpet beetle

Also known as Anthrenus scrophulariae or buffalo carpet beetle, the common carpet beetle eats materials made from animal byproducts including fibers, pollen, and nectar.

Adult common carpet beetles range in size from 1/10 to ⅙ inches long. Their bodies are round-shaped with backs (elytra and thoraxes) covered in black and white patches.

here's an example of a furniture carpet beetle

Larvae of common carpet beetles reach up to ⅕ inches in length, with reddish-brown elongated bodies covered in fine bristled hair.

What Are Carpet Beetles Commonly Mistaken For?

Most commonly, when people see pests indoors they figure it is a cockroach. But there are other confusions that arise where the carpet beetle is concerned.

Carpet Beetles vs Clothes Moths

Carpet beetles and clothes moths are two main examples of insects that can cause severe damage to textiles. They don't really look alike, in fact, they almost have nothing in common, but the confusion still persists due to their ability to digest animal fibers such as wool, silk, and leather.

Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs

It's quite common for people to mistakenly assume they have bed bugs when in reality they have an infestation of carpet beetles.

Both pests can leave you with red, itchy, and irritated skin. However, bed bugs can bite you, while carpet beetles don't bite at all. It's the bristly hairs on their larvae that can irritate your skin.

So how can you tell them apart from one another? Well, for one, carpet beetles have scales that are colored solid black or white and yellow-brown on the back of their bodies. On the other hand, bed bugs are reddish-brown with oval-shaped bodies, resembling an apple seed.

Read More: How do you find beb bugs during the day?

Carpet Beetles vs Fleas

One more insect that people often mistake carpet beetles for is fleas. The prime point of similarity between the two pests is how tiny they both are. While adult carpet beetles range from 1/16 to ⅛ inches long, adult fleas also fall within the same range of length.

Fleas also have dark-colored bodies, typically dark brown or reddish-brown, which can cause some confusion with carpet beetles. However, the two insects don't really have anything else in common.

Unlike carpet beetles, fleas do bite people, as well as animals such as dogs, cats, and birds, to feed on their blood. Flea bites are usually focused at the limbs, and rarely around the neck and upper body. Bites typically show one puncture mark.

Flea bites appear scattered without a pattern in groups of three or four. The skin will turn red within approximately 30 minutes of the bite. It's usually very itchy and becomes white if you press on it.

Carpet Beetle Facts

What Attracts Carpet Beetles Indoors?

Having an infestation of carpet beetles in your home can be generally attributed to bad luck. While it's true that carpet beetles thrive off woolen textiles and animal-based fabrics, adult beetles actually seek out flower nectar in nature, so they tend to be attracted to flowers in your yard or garden.

From here, it's very likely that carpet beetles get into houses unintentionally while they move from one flower to the next looking for nectar. 

If your carpet beetles' problem seems to persist or worsen, it's probably because you're unknowingly providing the pests with a suitable environment to thrive. This happens when you don't vacuum regularly, which causes dead skin, hair, and dead insects to accumulate in carpets and textile items around the house, presenting a delicious buffet for the tiny pests.

Adult carpet beetles typically prefer to lay their eggs and feed in dark sheltered spots such as attics and rooms with infrequent movement. So, if you've got similar out-of-sight places, make sure to regularly clean them to avoid attracting harmful carpet beetles.

Carpet beetles are also attracted to easily consumed food sources, which means there are bigger chances for these pests to seek out fabrics that are already damaged or worn out, even though they can chew through whole textiles.

So what can you do to prevent carpet beetles from infesting your home? Well, here are some pointers to help you keep your household free of the tiny creepers:

Try to stick to a regular cleaning schedule and apply thorough cleaning methods such as vacuuming and steaming.

Have your woolen items and any other vulnerable textiles dry cleaned or laundered at temperatures to kill existing carpet beetles. 

If you're planning to store clothing articles, then you should pack them in tight-fitting plastic bags or secured containers. You can use mothballs, crystals, or flakes to ensure the fabric stays free of carpet beetles and other textile-damaging insects.

If you like to bring flowers or plants indoors, then you need to carefully inspect them for carpet beetles before putting them inside your house. (Adult carpet beetles often attach to blooming flowers for their nectar)

Consider setting up bug nets over windows and doors to trap the insects and cut down the numbers of carpet beetles that may enter your home.

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How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles?

Unfortunately, it might be too late for you to perform the above-mentioned prevention methods because you already have an infestation of carpet beetles inside the house.

In this case, getting rid of the pests requires you to pinpoint the primary source of the infestation. It could be an old carpet stored in the basement, a rarely-used wool scarf or fur hat in the back of a closet, or perhaps the remains of a birds' nest up in your attic.

Focus your search on dark, undisturbed places where susceptible items could be stored for a long time. Remember, when you're checking clothing articles for carpet beetles, pay attention to creases and folds (such as collars and cuffs) where larvae of carpet beetles tend to feed.

Also, larvae will typically infest the corners and lower edges of carpets and rugs. You can easily check this by slowly lifting the carpeting and inspecting the underside. As for wall-to-wall carpet, you can use needle-nose pliers to raise the outer edge and look under.

Additionally, you may spot carpet beetles within/below upholstered furniture, or inside vents with accumulations of lint and hair.

Once you successfully find the infested items, you should dry clean, hot launder, or just dispose of them. Washing at high temperatures and using a clothes dryer can generate enough heat to kill any eggs or larvae that are possibly present. If you plan to throw out the heavily infested objects, be sure to bag them securely before discarding to prevent further spread of the pests.

Besides vacuuming and thorough cleaning, you can use insecticides on infested carpets and rugs. Sprays for flea control or those with fabric insects included on their labels are the most effective.

Never use insecticides on infested clothes or bedding fabrics. Instead, you can opt for thermal disinfection by placing the infested items in a household or walk-in freezer. Temperatures below 0°F are capable of killing all life stages of the carpet beetles within one week on average. The process can be as quick as 72 hours if you use a freezer that can reach less than 20°F.

If you still can't get rid of carpet beetles inside your home or you don't know how to handle the issue, then you need to contact a professional exterminator right away to aid you in controlling the infestation.

Best Spray to Repel and Kill Carpet Beetles

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If you're looking for a spray to help you control your carpet beetle infestation, then you should look no further than the Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer. This is an excellent product that doesn't only kill carpet beetles, but it also works to keep them away from your household for up to 12 months indoors and for up to 3 months outdoors.

The Ortho Home Defense Spray utilizes a powerful formula that contains bifenthrin and zeta-cypermethrin as active ingredients. It helps you eliminate carpet beetles, as well as more than 130 other types of insects including fleas, ticks, and spiders.

If you're worried about chemical odors, then you'll probably appreciate that this spray is odor-free. This means it won't irritate you or any other person in the house. Also, the spray is non-staining, so you won't have to worry about your furniture and valuables getting ruined.

The Ortho Home Defense Insect Killer comes complete with a comfort wand to help you apply the product quickly and easily. You don't have to bend your back or even tire your hand out with pumping thanks to the one-touch feature that fires a continuous spray of the product.

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