Contrary to what some people think, carpet beetles are not only found in carpets. In fact, they can be almost anywhere inside your house that has natural fibers.
The only materials that carpet beetle larvae are not interested in are those with synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester because they cannot chew them.
Are carpet beetle larvae dangerous? Carpet beetle larvae are not dangerous. They don’t bite or sting and don’t transmit diseases to humans. Instead, they can cause severe damage to carpets, clothing, fabrics, rugs, and other animal-related items. Some species can also cause contamination to dry food products.
There are three common carpet beetle species in the US – the varied carpet beetle, furniture carpet beetle, and black carpet beetle.
Adults are nuisance pests, but their larvae are the ones you should be of great concern to. This article will help you know more about carpet beetle larvae and how to get rid of them properly.
The Life Cycle of a Carpet Beetle
Carpet beetles undergo complete metamorphosis, which means they have four life stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adults lay eggs indoors, where they hatch in 2 weeks.
Carpet beetle larvae are tan or brown, about 1/8 to 1/4 inches (3.175 to 6.35 mm.) long, and have body shapes that depend on the species.
Amazingly, it may take between 9 months and 3 years before these worm-like larvae become pupae, depending on the species, climate, and availability of food.
These developing carpet beetle larvae will shed skin (molt) about 8 to 17 times until they reach the pupal stage, which lasts between 10 and 13 days.
Carpet beetle larvae can survive for several weeks without feeding. On average, adults of varied carpet beetle, furniture carpet beetle, and black carpet beetle have the same lifespan.
Females usually live for 2-6 weeks, but some of them may live up to 8 weeks. On the other hand, males may live for 2-4 weeks only.
What Time of Year Do Carpet Beetles Hatch?
Adult carpet beetles usually leave the flowers in the spring. During this season, you may find them in window sills. These adults are very attracted to light and will try to enter homes.
They will search for dark, secluded areas where they lay up to 100 eggs. These eggs hatch within a week or two during the spring months.
What Do Carpet Beetle Larvae Look Like?
Varied carpet beetle larvae have a tear-drop-shaped body, with a broader part on the rear side but narrower on the front side.
They are covered with rows of thick, light brown hairs and are much shorter than larvae of black carpet beetles. Once you disturb them, they will raise these tufts and will form a round plume.
Furniture carpet beetle larvae are initially white and will slowly turn dark red or chestnut brown as they mature.
Contrary to varied carpet beetle larvae, their body is broader on the front side but narrower on the rear side. Black carpet beetle larvae have carrot-shaped bodies covered with stiff, golden brown hairs.
What Do Carpet Beetles Eat?
Adult carpet beetles feed on nectar and pollen, which means they are mostly found in gardens. Varied carpet beetles usually lay indoors and outdoors, including bird nests, bee or wasp nests, and spider webs.
Other species lay eggs indoors only. While they are indoors, larvae cause more damage than adults.
Carpet beetle larvae feed on a wide variety of items, depending on the species. Varied carpet beetle larvae eat animal skins, dead insects, dried plant products, stuffed animals, and wool carpets.
Furniture carpet beetle larvae eat wool upholstered furniture and materials that contain natural fibers and animal protein.
Black carpet beetle larvae are considered the most destructive pests among the three. They also feed on dust, surfaces of carpets, wool products, upholstered furniture, books, and leather goods.
But aside from that, these carrot-shaped larvae also eat stored food products, including grains, seeds, flours, and cereals.
What Does a Carpet Beetle Poop Look Like?
Carpet beetle poop looks like a grain of salt, but the color will depend on what they last ate. They are mostly black or brown, though. Since larvae eat more than their adults do, you may spot their feces near their shed skin or food source. Larvae poop is usually found indoors, while the feces of adults are mostly outdoors.
How Do You Get Carpet Beetle Larvae in Your House?
Adult carpet beetles are very attracted to light and are excellent fliers. Depending on the species, they can grow between 1/10 and 3/16 inches (2.54 and 4.76 mm.) long.
With these tiny sizes, these adults can easily fly or crawl into doors, windows, vents, ducts, and eaves. They may also hide in attics and basements.
Larvae of furniture carpet beetles and black carpet beetles don’t need to enter since their eggs hatch indoors.
In some cases, both the adults and larvae are accidentally brought indoors through infested items such as fabrics, clothing, stuffed animals, potted plants, pet foods, books, and dry food packages.
What Causes You to Get Carpet Beetles?
There are several reasons why you can get carpet beetles. This includes unknowingly allowing them to enter your house to lay eggs, non-checking of items before bringing them inside your house, improper storage of dry foods, non-cleaning of carpets and similar items regularly, and very poor housekeeping.
Are Carpet Beetle Larvae Harmful to Humans?
Carpet beetle larvae are not harmful to humans. However, they damage materials that contain animal fibers. This includes carpets and rugs that are made of wool, silk, fur, and feathers.
In museums, these scavengers destroy stuffed trophy heads and animals. Some species also infest grains and pet foods.
Some carpet beetle species are pantry pests, which contaminate dry foods and cause them to be no longer suitable for human consumption.
But then, some people may have some allergic reactions once they get into contact with the shed skin of carpet beetles. Fortunately, these reactions are minor and don’t cause alarm.
Should I Worry About Carpet Beetles?
Seeing a few adult carpet beetles flying outside and around your house should not be a cause for worry.
But once they start to enter your house, especially during early summer until spring, this could lead to a carpet beetle infestation. Note that a single fertilized female adult can lay 100 eggs in one sitting alone.
Can Carpet Beetles Go Away on Their Own?
Carpet beetles don’t go away on their own unless there is a shortage of food. Once indoors, adults will go back to the garden shortly after laying eggs. On the other hand, larvae will stay inside as long as they can find food.
If there is no more food, they will move to another area but are unlikely to leave the house.
How Do You Know if You Have a Carpet Beetle Infestation?
Carpet beetle larvae usually cause infestation, not adults. They are afraid of lights, which makes them even harder to find.
But don’t worry; you don’t have to see them for you to realize that they are already attacking your belongings. Aside from their presence, here are some of the signs of a carpet beetle infestation:
- Lots of adult carpet beetles are flying on your window sills. It means some of them have already entered your house.
- Edges of carpets, rugs, and garments have light-colored shell-like cast skins.
- Seldom-used clothes and blankets have huge holes. If the holes are small and scattered, they are likely caused by cloth moths.
- Dead small mammals and birds are found in attics, basements, and inside walls.
- There are carpet beetle poop and eggs near their food sources. Eggs are usually white, oblong, less than 1 mm. long, and are in clusters.
How Do You Find the Source of Carpet Beetles?
Finding carpet beetles, especially larvae can be quite challenging. It is, therefore, very important that you know where they could be coming from.
Judging from what they eat, the most possible sources of carpet beetles are attics, pantries, kitchens, food storage areas, closets, cabinets, vents, and furniture.
How Do I Get Rid of Carpet Beetle Larvae?
Carpet beetles are among the household pests that are very difficult to control. Aside from their small size, larvae disperse widely and hide in obscure places.
But as mentioned above, vacuum cleaners are only an initial solution. To help you out, here are some ways to get rid of carpet beetle larvae for good:
1. Expose Infested Items to Heat
Heat kills carpet beetle larvae and eggs. For infested garments and other fabrics, heat them at 105°F (40.5°C) or place them under direct sunlight for at least 4 hours. If applicable, wash them thoroughly with hot water and detergent. For severely infested items, wrap them in a sealed plastic bag and throw them away.
2. Freeze Infested Items
Aside from extreme heat, carpet beetle eggs and larvae also die when exposed to very cold temperatures. For infested small items such as dry food packages and museum pieces, place them inside the freezer at -20°F (-30°C) for at least 3 days. To help prevent the items from frost, place them inside a sealed plastic bag.
3. Use a Steam Cleaner
Steam cleaning your carpets kills all life stages of carpet beetles and is better than dry cleaning. This technique is also great for removing stains and restoring the beauty of your rugs and carpets. For deep cleaning of carpets, Bissell ProHeat 2X Revolution Full Size Upright Carpet Cleaner is an ideal choice.
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4. Use Pheromone Traps
Pheromone traps such as Dr. Killigan's Premium Pantry Moth Traps are great in attracting and killing carpet beetles. However, they only work against male adults. They don’t kill female carpet beetles and larvae. Still, this kind of trap can help control their population and is therefore an effective preventive measure.
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5. Use Sticky Traps
Unlike pheromone traps, non-toxic sticky traps such as the Catchmaster Double Sided Flying Insect Trap work effectively against both sexes of adult carpet beetles. Place them near your window sills, where these beetles stay as they try to enter your house. But again, such traps are not for killing larvae directly.
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Can You Get Rid of Carpet Beetles by Vacuuming?
You can get rid of carpet beetles by vacuuming them. However, this is only effective for larvae since they cannot fly yet. For better results, use a vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool such as SharkNavigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum . But then, vacuuming alone is not enough to kill all of them.
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Insecticides are only effective against carpet beetles as spot treatments. Repeated application is also usually necessary, but it can damage carpets and fabrics. It poses health risks, especially when used indoors.
So far, the best way to prevent carpet beetles is regular cleaning, along with proper sanitization.
List of Sources
Carpet Beetles. (2022). University of Maryland Extension.
Choe, D. (2020). Carpet Beetles. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.
Potter, M. F. Carpet Beetles. University of Kentucky.
Koehler, P. G., Vazquez, R. J., Pereira, R. M. (2022). Carpet Beetles. University of Florida.
Dill, J. F., Kirby, C. A. (2020). Carpet Beetles. The University of Maine.