Carpet Beetle Control
Carpet beetles are small, oval-shaped, winged insects in the order Coleoptera (beetles and weevils). Like other beetles, their front wings are modified into tough, shell-like cover that divide in a straight line, right down the middle of their backs. This is a handy way to quickly distinguish them from other oval-shaped insects such as bed bugs.
The two most common species of carpet beetles in the Pacific Northwest and most of the United States are the varied carpet beetle (shown here) and the black carpet beetle.
Varied carpet beetles have adult coloration patterns that are, well, varied. Aside from being multi-colored, they have no universal color pattern or markings. The most common coloration pattern is a an assortment of white, tan, brown, and gray splotches. You might say that they’re into earth tones.
Adult black carpet beetles are shiny and mainly black or dark brown in color, with brown legs. They’re slightly narrower and less round in shape than varied carpet beetles. They’re a bit less common than varied carpet beetles in our area, but they do the same sort of damage.
Carpet Beetle Biology and Damage
Both black carpet beetles and varied carpet beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, which means that their life cycles have four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They also experience a period of dormancy known as a diapause toward the end of the larval stage, before they go into pupation.
It may take from one to three years for a carpet beetle to grow from an egg to an adult, depending mainly on warmth and the availability of food. Eggs are laid in areas close to sources of food, such as the nests of birds or animals, or near a dead animal’s corpse. In homes, they’re often deposited in relatively protected areas such as under and behind furnishings, under carpets, and sometimes even in wall voids or attics.
As is the case with most pest beetles and weevils, it’s the larval stage of carpet beetles that do the damage. Almost immediately after hatching, they start to feed; and it’s the feeding behavior that causes the damage. Both varied carpet beetles and black carpet beetles (shown here) are omnivorous, but varied carpet beetles more strongly prefer animal products.
In particular, they need the proteins keratin and chitin, which are primarily found in animal skin, hair, and feathers. In homes, they can do serious damage to wool carpeting and clothing, tapestries, leather products, furs, down, and feathers. In museums, art galleries, and businesses that work in textiles, they can be catastrophic.
Both carpet beetle species (but more so the black carpet beetle) will also feed on plant products such as cotton, cereal products, dried pet food, barley, nuts, and so forth. They’ll also eat synthetic fibers once in a while, especially if they’re stained with blood, sweat, insect excrement, or other organic content. The larval feeding stage can last anywhere from two months to a year or more, depending on the temperature and the availability of food.
Adult carpet beetles are able to fly and are attracted to light. They usually live outside during the warmer months, but may be attracted into lit homes in the evening, or by the warmth of a house when the weather gets cool. As adults, they feed mainly on pollen and nectar, and are not destructive to human food or furnishings.
Preventing Carpet Beetle Problems
As with most pest problems, preventing carpet beetle infestations is easier than eliminating an infestation once it occurs. Here are some things you can do to help prevent carpet beetles from becoming established in your home.
As is the case for many other insect pests, meticulous sanitation will help prevent carpet beetle problems. For example:
- Carpets should be vacuumed frequently and shampooed regularly, using the methods recommended by the carpet manufacturer. This is true even for carpets made of synthetic materials. Frequent cleaning helps remove stains and spills that can attract and nourish carpet beetles, while physically removing the insects themselves.
- Upholstered furniture should also be vacuumed and shampooed frequently. Special attention should be paid to cracks and crevices where bits of food, human or pet hair, and other stuff that beetles like to eat tends to accumulate.
- Clothing should be washed or dry-cleaned soon after being worn, even if it’s made from synthetic materials. Food stains, sweat, and other organic materials can attract and nourish carpet beetles, even on synthetic fabrics. Also, never put clothing into storage if it hasn’t been washed or dry-cleaned since it was last worn.
- If you have pets, keep their living areas clean. Pet hair, fur, feathers, and other animal by-products can attract and nourish carpet beetles.
- Discard old clothing, shoes, carpets, tapestries, and other items that can attract and feed carpet beetles.
Proper Storage of Food and Clothing
Proper storage of food, clothing, and other household items can go a long way toward discouraging carpet beetles and many other stored-product pests. Here are some specific storage suggestions to help prevent pest problems.
- Dry foods should be stored in airtight, pest-proof containers. Beetle larvae can easily penetrate many food packages, especially non-airtight packages like the cardboard boxes used for pasta, rice, and dog biscuits. Storage canisters with tight-fitting lids, or resealable zipper-type plastic bags, are good alternatives.
- Try to feed your pets on a schedule that avoids leaving pet food out for extended periods of time. Carpet beetles and many other stored-product pests will eat almost any kind of pet food.
- Wash or dry-clean clothing before storing it, and store it in airtight cabinets or bins if possible. Lavender or cedar cachets can help discourage carpet beetles and other stored-product pests. Mothballs or flakes are also effective, but must be used in strict accordance with their labels for both safety and effectiveness reasons.
Adult carpet beetles usually live outdoors during summer months, but are attracted to lit windows of homes at night. Keeping your window screens in good condition can help keep the adult beetles from getting into your home.
Carpet Beetle Control
Carpet beetle control can be challenging even for professional exterminators. An effective carpet beetle control job always begins with an inspection to locate the source of the infestation and correct any conducive conditions.
Once this has been done, your Bugaboo Pest Control pest professional may use any or all of a variety of chemical or non-chemical measures to solve your carpet beetle problem. These methods may include simply identifying and removing the source of the infestation, providing instructions for non-chemical control if the infestation is localized, using non-toxic pheromone traps to attract and trap adult beetles before they breed, or the limited application of properly-labeled insecticides to clear up existing infestations.
In short, there’s really no single “best” approach to carpet beetle extermination. It really depends on your home, its furnishings, the extent of the problem, and your pest control preferences. For more information and a customized treatment plan, please contact the experts at Bugaboo Pest Control. We look forward to hearing from you.