Carpet Beetles Eat More Than Just Carpet

by Pat Kelley, ACE

The term “carpet beetle” is frequently used in reference to the little beetles and “worms”
that quietly munch away at rugs and carpets beneath our feet. The truth is that these beetles, in the family called Dermestidae, will eat a wide variety of materials. Their food can include processed food for human consumption, dead animals/insects, feathers, furs, and yes, they will also eat the natural fibers found in woolen rugs and carpeting.

The most common carpet beetles consist of these six species: Black carpet beetle, Attagenus unicolor; Brown carpet beetle, Attagenus elongates; Common carpet beetle, Anthrenus scrophulariae; Furniture carpet beetle, Anthrenus flavipes; Guernsey carpet beetle Attagenus sarnicus; Varied carpet beetle, Anthrenus verbasci.

The adult beetles become active in the warming springtime of temperate climates. They can be found feeding on the pollens of Spirea flowers as well as other flowering plants. Mating often occurs outdoor, after which the females come indoor looking for food sources on which to lay their eggs. An accumulation of dead insects in attics, window wells, ductwork, or in wall voids can attract the initial females as a good food source for her young larvae. The larvae can then transfer over to carpeting or other available food sources nearby. The larval stage does the most damage to stored goods as they are ravenous eaters. When inspecting for carpet beetles it always helps to “know your pest first.” By knowing the biology of the beetles and the wide potential of food sources for these insects, you now know that you need to look much farther than just the carpeting to find potential  infestations. Pheromone traps are available but are specific for each species. Larval dermestid monitors can be used to detect for the larval stage.

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