What are carpet beetles?
Varied carpet beetles have irregular patterns on their backs that wear off when they get older. (Photo courtesy of National Pest Management Association/Tom Myers)
Carpet beetles are common household pests that look like small, fuzzy worms or little, dark beetles. They can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of the carpet, on the windowsill, on clothing and even in food products.
Because carpet beetles can cause irreparable damage to your carpet and other belongings, it's important to be able to identify these pests, understand their significance and know how to approach the situation if your home becomes infested.
How common are carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles are fairly common bugs. Many times, a carpet beetle infestation may be mistaken for bed bugs. They can be found all over the United States, but are more prevalent in northern coastal states where there is a colder and more humid climate.
There are four main types of carpet beetles: the black carpet beetle, the common carpet beetle, the varied carpet beetle, and the furniture beetle. Adult beetles in these categories are typically an eighth of an inch in length, while carpet beetle larvae have bristles on their bodies. The black carpet beetle is more distinct than the other three, with an oval shape and a completely solid color, usually either brown or black. The remaining three types tend to have rounder shapes and have dark backgrounds with various patterns on their backs.
Where do carpet beetles come from?
Adult carpet beetles typically live outdoors and subsist on a diet of pollen and nectar. They can gain entrance to your home by attaching onto flowers, furniture, or flying in at night when attracted by the light.
Once a carpet beetle gets inside your home, it can lay up to 50 eggs that can hatch anywhere between six and 16 days. Depending on the home's temperature and the food supply, the larvae stage of the beetles can last between three months and three years. Adults can live between two weeks and a few months. During this time, they will feed on carpet fibers as well as food items and skin cells in the carpet.
Carpet beetles aren't usually picky about which types of carpet to infest and will often feed on other types of material as well, such as clothing. However, long and thick carpet fibers usually put you at a higher risk for carpet beetles, since these types of carpets provide a greater food supply and can usually provide a better hiding place for the beetles.
How to prevent carpet beetles
Practicing good housekeeping is one of the most effective ways to prevent carpet beetles from infesting your home. Since carpet beetles feed on food products, skin cells and other debris left behind in the carpet, it's important to thoroughly vacuum your carpet on a regular basis.
To prevent damage to your clothing, store wool and fur items in airtight bags. Keep all food items in your kitchen properly sealed to prevent exposure. If you purchased any secondhand upholstered furniture or clothing items, make sure to have them properly cleaned before bringing them into your home. Hire a carpet cleaner to professionally clean your carpets at least once a year.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article orginally posted on Jan. 13, 2012.