WHAT ARE THEY?
Carpet beetles technically belong to the order of Coleoptera (Beetles) and the Family Dermestidae.
The word dermestidae comes from the Greek 'derm' meaning skin and 'edmenai' to eat, literally a skin eater. They are small pests that can cause a large amount of damage if left unattended.
WHY ARE THEY CALLED CARPET BEETLES?
Carpet Beetles got their name because years ago most carpeting was made of wool and was the most common food source for the beetles. Today, most wall-to-wall carpets are made of synthetic fibers and carpet beetles will not feed off fibers which are not natural. (They can, however, cause damage when eating food sources on a synthetic fiber such as urine, sweat, food particles, etc.)
ADULT CARPET BEETLES
Adult carpet beetles themselves feed on pollen from garden plants with white or cream flowers such as Spiraea and Viburnum, as well as Crepe Myrtle and Buckwheat. After mating, the females require the nectar and pollen of these flowers in order to lay eggs.
Adult carpet beetles do not bite and are harmless. They are most often seen in the summer months as they seek sites for egg laying. After she lays her eggs, the female will die.
CARPET BEETLE LARVAE
It is the larvae which causes the damage inside buildings when the adult females seek sites to lay their eggs on likely food sources for their larvae. The larvae are most active in the fall before they hibernate for the winter.
HOW DO THEY GET IN THE HOME?
Although the female beetles will often lay eggs outside in abandoned bee, wasp, and bird nests, they are able to fly well and will come into the home through doors, windows, air vents or cracks and can be brought in accidentally on cut flowers. It is also possible for them to cling to pet hair and your own clothing as well. They have no problem coming down through chimneys, plumbing openings, and electrical conduits as well.
Once in the home, they like dark areas such as closets, behind baseboards, under furniture, under area rugs, and along the edges of wall-to-wall carpet, etc.
The larvae will feed on any natural fabrics, such as wool carpets and rugs, wool fibers of any kind, skins, furs, feathers, silk, leather bindings of books, stuffed animals, and more.
DO THE LARVAE BITE?
The larvae of the different types of carpet beetles have long, hard hairs. If contact occurs, a susceptible human could feel as if he or she were bitten. A reaction is usually not serious but can actually build up over time. If the larvae crawl across a person, the marks the hairs leave will usually appear in a line.
The larvae are sometimes known as 'woolly bears' (not the caterpillar) and even their shed hair can occasionally lead to a severe human skin irritation known as Carpet Beetle Dermatitis. The hair can also cause reactions in the respiratory tract of some people.
TYPES OF CARPET BEETLES
There are several types of adult carpet beetles. They are oval shaped with 6 legs and 2 antennae. They have rounded, hard bodies and wings beneath their shells. Some have scales of different colors on their wing covers and these can wear off over time.
The larvae of most look like fuzzy worms with bands across their bodies and long hair-like extensions on either one or both ends of their bodies.
The four most prevalent types are found all over the world:
Varied Carpet Beetle-Anthrenus verbasci. This is the most common beetle pest in Europe.
Black Carpet Beetle-Attagenus unicolor.This is the most common and most destructive in the U.S.
Furniture Carpet Beetle-Anthrenus Flavipes.This beetle is very similar to the Varied Carpet Beetle.
Common Carpet Beetle-Anthrenus scrophulariae.This beetle is similar to the Varied Carpet Beetle.
LIFE CYCLE OF CARPET BEETLES
Carpet beetles go through a complete metamorphosis. There are 4 stages of development involved:
- Immature Larva
- Pupa - Transition Stage from Larva to Adult
- Adult emerging from Pupa
As the larvae grow, as with all insects, they will shed their exoskeletons (skins). This can happen a dozen times or more. The larvae feed in limited areas and these skins, which resemble the larva, will accumulate and may often be one of the more noticeable signs of an infestation.
Beetle larvae resemble millipedes but the distinguishing characteristic is the beetle larvae have only 3 pairs of legs.
The life cycle of a carpet beetle is usually completed within a year, especially with the black and varied beetles, though others can have 3 or four generations per year.
Depending on the species, the female can lay 40 to 90 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs will hatch into larvae in 10 to 20 days. The larvae may spend 2 months to a year or more in the larval stage, depending on the beetle species, the type and amount of food available, and the temperature. Indoors in warm areas leads to a shorter life cycle than in unheated portions of a home during the winter. The adults will emerge from the pupal stage in the spring.
WHAT DO CARPET BEETLES LOOK LIKE?
To find out what carpet beetles look like, how to eliminate them if you find them, how to avoid them, and how they are different from moths and bedbugs, please continue reading here.