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Carpet Beetles: Damage from Dermestids

In the caterpillar stage, carpet beetles, which are members of the Dermestid family, can do great damage inside your home.

Carpet beetles get their name from earlier years when wool carpets were the norm in many homes. While today's floor coverings tend to be synthetic, these pests can cause a great deal of damage to other items inside the home. If you have spotted tiny round holes in your favorite wool sweater, the caterpillar stage of this member of the Dermestid family may be the culprit. (Please scroll down for rest of article.)


Today, experts simply call them dermestids, but carpet beetles are a terrible pest regardless of their name. In nature, these are part of the "clean-up crews" that go about consuming leftover animal carcasses. They're especially fond of hair and other natural materials.

Even in the adult stage, they're extremely small, about one-quarter inch long. At this point, they're harmless nectar and pollen feeders. Like other insect species, it is the caterpillars that can ruin your favorite sweater, shawl, or even a fur coat. But this is just the beginning of their menu choices. Museums that feature mounted animals and warehouses that store grains also have problems with these critters.

In the larval stage, they'll feed on:
-arrangements that incorporate feathers
-dead insects
-dog food
-felt items
-lint behind the dryer, in ventilation ducts, under beds and appliances
-red pepper
-soiled fabrics including cotton and linen
-wasp nests.

How do They Infest a Home?

Carpet beetles are prevalent in the outdoors. They may reside in a bird's nest or catch a ride on a bouquet of flowers from the garden. Any habitat that is inviting to insects, rodents and other similar creatures may be an invitation for carpet beetles. Once inside, the adults will find cracks and crevices in which to hide. They'll make themselves quite at home in yours, finding such places as lint behind the dryer to lay eggs and feed.

The first sign may be a beetle landing on a window ledge. You may also spot tiny fuzzy worms around bathroom sinks. Round holes in garments will eventually appear. While clothes moths could be possible culprits, they're rare by comparison. Four species within this dermestid group are the culprits: common carpet beetles, furniture carpet beetles, black carpet beetles, and varied carpet beetles.

Carpet Beetle Control and Prevention

Increased vacuuming and cleaning all floor surfaces can help in controlling carpet beetles. Regular removal of debris, including hairs and lint, will eliminate many food sources. Keep drapes clean and also vacuum upholstered furniture. Inspect your pantry, too, as carpet beetles will infest grains.

Keep clothes clean. Remove stains immediately or take to the dry cleaners if indicated. Check clothes in storage on a regular basis. Some experts recommend moth balls, but also mention that you'll then have to deal with the odor. Cedar may not be effective in repelling carpet beetle larvae. Cold storage - at temperatures of about 40 degrees - is also great protection. If you own any fur items, it's wise to use a professionally secured vault during the off-season. Freezing and heat also kill carpet beetle larvae. Even a few hours in direct sun will cause the caterpillars to seek shelter elsewhere. When you're ready to store items, place them in tightly sealed containers. You can include insecticidal strips in between layers, but be sure to keep these from direct contact with clothing.

If you want to use a pesticide, be sure that carpet beetles are included on the list. Spray around the perimeter and under furniture, but avoid using on high-end or Oriental rugs. Always follow instructions. In worst cases, consult a professional exterminator.

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