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Carpet Beetles in Homes

- 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 the best control strategy. Since most houses have at least a few carpet beetles, don't be overly alarmed if you find some.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
my resume

Identification of carpet beetles

There are at least four different 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 (see photo right). Dermestid beetles have a larval stage that appears "fuzzy" or "hairy" (see photo below).

Adult beetles feed on plant pollen and nectar but 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. Carpet beetle larvae also infest stored food items such as cereal, grains, nuts, dry pet food and spices.

varied carpet beetle

carpet beetle (magnified; ~ 1/8" long); some carpet beetles are all black


The 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.

carpet beetle larva

carpet beetle larva (magnified; ~ 1/4" long); larvae may be tan, brown, gray or black but all have long "hairs" which makes them look fuzzy

Control of carpet beetles

Cleaning 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 (see photo above), or their shed skins, in kitchen cabinets 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 (DoMyOwnPestControl). 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.


See: DIY Pest Control Insecticides, Baits, Traps

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).

Because they are regularly cleaned, clothes that are worn will generally not be damaged by carpet beetles or clothes moths. Control of a carpet beetle infestation in a clothes closet 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.

Even packaged dry foods that you purchase at the supermarket can be infested with insects. A few insects will turn into many if foods are stored for long periods. Unopened packages that will be stored longer than about 2 months should be treated with 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.

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