Carpet beetles are common fabric pests that occur throughout the United States. Outdoors, adult carpet beetles are found on flowers from late spring to early summer feeding on pollen and nectar. They can be carried into the house unintentionally on flowering plants, or may enter the home through improperly sealed doors and windows. Once indoors, carpet beetle larvae can cause considerable feeding damage to fabrics, furnishings, and clothing that contain natural fibers.
As carpet beetle larvae feed, they can leave behind clues such as frass (insect droppings) and cast (shed) skins that indicate the presence of an infestation. Other signs of carpet beetles may include surface damage and irregular holes in fabrics, or uneven areas in brushes and furs. In extreme or neglected infestations, a buildup of old larval skins can even lead to skin or respiratory irritation caused from persistent contact or prolonged inhalation of the larval hairs. Therefore, it is important to contact a pest management professional at the first signs of carpet beetles to eliminate the infestation as quickly as possible.
There are four species of carpet beetles commonly found infesting fabrics and carpets: the black carpet, common carpet, furniture carpet, and varied carpet beetles. Adult black carpet beetles are black in color and range in size from 1/8" to 3/16" in length. The other three species are similar in size to the black carpet beetle, but are slightly more oval and have a variety of different wing scale patterns. Differentiating between species is important to finding the primary source of an infestation, and is the key to eliminating these pests. However, species identification can be difficult and is best left to your pest management professional.
The black carpet beetle is the most commonly encountered and economically important of the carpet beetles. Its common name comes from its typical black color. It is a primary pest of fur or feathers, but larvae can be found indoors infesting dried products such as dog food, cookies, fish meal and dried meats.
The common carpet beetle likely gets its name because it is among the most common pests of wool and silk carpets. These larvae will feed on a wide variety of animal and plant materials, but their preferred foods are carpets, clothing, and textiles made from animal fiber. Adults are most active during the daytime, and can be found flying around windows or along window sills.
The furniture carpet beetle’s common name reflects that this beetle is best known for causing damage to upholstered furniture. Larvae can feed on plant materials including rice, wheat germ, and mold spores. However, they must feed on materials containing keratin, such as wool, hair, or feathers, in order to complete development.
The varied carpet beetle is similar in appearance and feeding preference to the furniture carpet beetle. This pest probably gets its name from the variation in the color pattern on its dorsal surface. Varied carpet beetle larvae feed on carpets, furs, hair and hide. Their favorite foods are dead insects or insect pupae which makes them a major pest of museum collections and structures with existing insect infestations.
No matter the species, carpet beetles can cause considerable damage to fabric goods. Remember to contact your pest management professional at the first signs of an infestation to eliminate the population and to minimize the harm these pests may cause.