Carpet beetle adults are small and oval-shaped with varied coloring, while their larvae are small and worm-like, with poky hairs all over their bodies. These larvae (more specifically their arrow-shaped hairs) have been known to cause skin irritation and allergy symptoms in some humans, but these pests are best known for their destruction of natural fiber materials.
What Are Natural Fiber Materials?
Natural fibers include a wide variety of materials. Feathers, fur, leather, cotton, silk, and wool are all considered natural fibers, and any items made from these materials should be inspected carefully if you are having a recurring issue with carpet beetles indoors.
While adult carpet beetles are primarily found outside, where they consume flower pollen, they will sometimes appear inside, especially around windowsills. If you are regularly finding adult carpet beetles (or their hairy, wormy larvae) inside your home, there is likely something that is drawing them in and keeping them around.
Sanitation and cleaning are always the best methods of control when it comes to carpet beetles. If you believe chemical treatment is needed to handle your carpet beetle issue, it is recommended that you seek a second opinion from a local pest control company that specializes in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) before proceeding. Chemical treatments should not be applied to clothing, bedding, or linens. Chemical treatment for carpet beetles should be used in limited amounts in targeted areas and according to all label instructions.
What Do Carpet Beetles Look Like?
It is important to know that, when it comes to identification, there are a number of carpet beetles that could be causing you trouble. Luckily, regardless of what type of beetle you're dealing with, control methods are generally the same, because it is the larvae that cause inside damage, not the adult beetles.
Carpet beetles adults are typically found outside, but they fly well and are attracted to light, meaning they are drawn to your home and the lights that surround it. If they find areas suitable for laying their eggs, they will lay them there, which could lead to an ongoing issue.
There are four main types of carpet beetles that you could be dealing with:
- Varied Carpet Beetles
- Common Carpet Beetles
- Furniture Carpet Beetles
- Black Carpet Beetles
Varied Carpet Beetles, Common Carpet Beetles, and Furniture Carpet Beetles
These various beetles are similar in size, shape, and coloring. Adult beetles are comparable in shape to a ladybug with an elongated, oval-shaped body. In terms of size, however, they are much smaller than ladybugs (2 to 3mm in length) and their coloring comes in varied shades of brown, black, yellow, grey, and white speckles.
Black Carpet Beetles
These carpet beetles are widespread and differ in appearance from other carpet beetles. Adult black carpet beetles have a more oblong shape than the other, more rounded carpet beetles, and range in size from 3 to 5mm long. They range in color from dark brown to black.
3 Ways to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles Naturally
Inspect and Identify
When performing pest control, the most important step comes first: assessment and identification.
A well-rounded pest control program needs to address each pest according to its biology, and if you don't know what pest you're dealing with, that can be difficult. Do a little research. Consider the biology of carpet beetles and ask yourself these questions:
- Where am I finding the carpet beetles and why are they there?
- Are the carpet beetles I'm finding larvae or adults?
- How do carpet beetles behave?
- Where are the carpet beetles feeding and reproducing?
Remove the Sources of a Carpet Beetle Problem
If you are having an ongoing carpet beetle issue, you could be bringing them in without knowing it or they could be feeding and reproducing somewhere nearby.
Adult carpet beetles live outdoors and eat mostly pollen. They love flowers and can often be shaken from certain types of flowers by the dozens. If you enjoy fresh-cut flowers in your home, gently shake your flowers out to make sure carpet beetles aren't hiding inside. Also keep your windows and doors closed unless they have screens, especially in the spring, summer, and fall months, when carpet beetle adults are most likely to try and fly inside.
While adult carpet beetles are not destructive to your items, larvae are incredibly voracious and begin eating as soon as they hatch. Seek to identify and remove any and all sources of food available for them.
Carpet beetle larvae are attracted to a variety of food sources, including:
- Accumulations of hair (pet or human)
- Clothing and upholstery made of fibers such as silk, wool, feathers, leather, felt, and furs
- Seeds, grains, and flours
Cotton is not a preferred food source for carpet beetles unless it is heavily soiled with sweat or food stains. Keep clothes clean and run laundry regularly to ensure that your dirty clothes aren't contributing to a carpet beetle problem.
While it is important to learn to live in peace with an occasional carpet beetle here and there, it is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to infested food items. Inspect your pantry and discard any infested food items before the pests can spread elsewhere.
It can be difficult to get rid of furniture, but if you're serious about getting rid of carpet beetles, be prepared to let your natural fiber chair or rug go. Some sofas and chairs, especially older ones, are stuffed with animal hair, too, and carpet beetle larvae will happily infest these items.
If you're not sure where your carpet beetle source is, look for a company that specializes in Integrated Pest Management. They will help you troubleshoot your carpet beetle issue.
Clean up, Seal up, and Sanitize to Keep Carpet Beetles Away
To avoid a repeated carpet beetle issue, clean up the following messes on a regular basis:
- Accumulations of hair underneath furniture
- Spilled grains and flours in the kitchen or pantry
- Heavily soiled clothing
- Dead insect parts
Soap and water is not ideal for cleaning up flour and grain spills in the pantry area. This can create a paste that becomes caked in the cracks and crevices of your kitchen and can provide further food sources for the larvae of carpet beetles and other pantry pests.
The vacuum cleaner is your best friend when it comes to carpet beetle management. Vacuum thoroughly under all of your furniture, including couches and beds, and vacuum up any grain or flour messes in the pantry, as well. Vacuum-seal any natural fiber clothes that you need to store long term so that carpet beetles and other pests cannot access them.
Signs of a Carpet Beetle Issue
There are a number of signs that may indicate a carpet beetle issue:
- Hairy little worms on your floors, in your closet, or around your kitchen
- Holes in your natural fiber items and clothing
- Adult beetles accumulating around your windows
If you're wondering where carpet beetles like to hide, check in areas where hair can accumulate and be on the lookout, especially for larvae. Adult carpet beetles live outside but will lay their eggs inside, where there is ample food when the eggs hatch. Carpet beetle larvae love to eat their way through accumulations of pet and human hair, which a great reminder of why frequent vacuuming is important, especially in those hidden areas you might not normally think of.
What Causes a Carpet Beetle Issue?
Carpet beetles are one of the most common interior pests. They thrive in a variety of environments and feed on a variety of things. The following things can attract carpet beetles to your home:
- Lights, especially at night
- Open windows and doors that allow adult beetles to fly in towards the light
- Accumulations of animal hair
- Piles of dead insect bits in garages or behind furniture
- Access to natural fibers such as wool, silk, animal furs, feathers, and leather
How to Keep Carpet Beetles Away
Given that carpet beetle adults come in from outside, be careful that you aren't being too inviting or bringing carpet beetles in with you by mistake.
To avoid carpet beetles, purchase rugs and furniture that are made of synthetic fabrics and make sure to vacuum them regularly. Move furniture and vacuum beneath it on a regular basis, especially if you have indoor pets. Keep your pantry clean and free of spilled grains and flours, and keep your eye out for any bird nests around your home or in your attic.
By taking preventative steps and thinking like a carpet beetle, you can avoid bringing them in and keep your home pest free!
"Carpet Beetles." Management Tools for a Healthy Learning Environment, Utah Pest Press, Utah State University Cooperative Extension.
Evans, Arthur V, and National Wildlife Federation. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders & Related Species of North America. New York, Sterling Pub. ; Woodstock, Vt, 2008.
"Carpet Beetles." Pests of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets, University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources, Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.