-- Small fuzzy larvae that infest
stored food and fabrics --
Summary: Carpet beetles, a type of dermestid beetle, infest both fabrics and stored food. Sanitation, cleaning and the discarding of infested items, is usually the best control strategy. Since most houses have at least a few carpet beetles, don't be overly alarmed if you find some
Identification of carpet beetles
There are at least four different dermestid carpet beetles that invade homes. All are less than 1/4" long, some only 1/8", some are a uniformly dark color while others have brown, white or black scales on their back. All have a larval stage that appears "fuzzy" or "hairy".
Adult beetles feed on plant pollen and nectar but the fuzzy, worm-like larvae feed on, wool, fur, hide, animal horn, feathers, hair, silk, linen, cotton, and rayon. Soiled fabrics are much more likely to attract carpet beetle feeding than clean fabrics. In addition to animal-based fibers carpet beetle larvae also infest stored foods such as cereal, grains, nuts, dry pet food and spices.
The adult beetles are usually found moving slowly on walls or floors. Fuzzy shed skins from larvae are sometimes found in cabinets and draws. Since the beetles are fairly mobile the actual infestation of larvae may be some distance away from where you see beetles.
Carpet beetles are very common and there's no reason to be concerned if you find only a few larvae or adult beetles. Except for the minor damage they do to fabrics and stored food items these beetles are pretty harmless. But if you start finding more than a few use the control methods outlined below to manage them to a level where damage is no longer an issue. These beetles can also be important pests in warehouses.
Questions about carpet beetles are among the most frequent questions I get. The bottom line is that a minor infestation is no reason for concern and certainly no reason to treat with harsh chemicals, just follow the suggestions below.
Control of carpet beetlesCleaning is the best and safest way to control beetle larvae. Carefully check shelves where dry foods are stored, especially dry pet foods, cereals, grains, and so forth. Also check items made of natural fabrics, such as wool carpets, wall hangings, and stuffed animals. Once you find the main infestation clean or discard anything that is infested.
If you find the fuzzy carpet beetle larvae, or their shed skins, in kitchen cabinets or drawers then the infestation is probably in food storage/pantry. Search stored food containers and clean shelves with a mild household cleaner
Once everything is clean, cracks and crevices inside cabinets and drawers can be treated with a low-toxicity dust insecticide that is approved for this use such as EcoPCO DX, available here (DoMyOwn.com). Since product labels and usage instructions can change, be sure to check the product instructions before use. See Dust Insecticides for additional information and sources.
Don't use mothballs for fabric infestations
Normal dry cleaning kills all stages of carpet beetles in clothing. For long-term storage clean clothes can be placed in air-tight plastic storage boxes. There's no need to use mothballs in storage containers or closets. In fact, recent studies warn about the health hazards of mothballs (see Why Mothballs Are Too Dangerous To Use).
Clothes that are worn and regularly cleaned will generally not be damaged by carpet beetles or clothes moths. On the other hand control of a carpet beetle infestation in a closets can be a long-term project so you'll need patience. Carefully inspect and clean areas of suspected infestation, and place clean clothes in storage boxes. Stick with it and you'll eventually eliminate these pesky critters.
Store dry foods in air-tight containers
Dry foods such as cereals, grains and pet food should be stored in air-tight plastic or glass containers. This type of storage container not only protects these items from various insect pests but it also helps to keep them dry and protected from mold.
Keep in mind that even packaged dry foods that you have purchased at the supermarket can be infested with insects. And, a few insects will turn into many if foods are stored for long periods. Therefore unopened packages that will be stored longer than about 2 months should be treated by freezing. Exposure to freezing temperatures in a standard home freezer for a couple of days will kill all stages of pantry pests, including dermestid carpet beetles. A chest freezer works well for larger items like a bag of dog food.
Professional-level pest control supplies are generally not available in home and garden stores but can be found at DoMyOwn, our affiliate.
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