Carpet Beetle Damage
Carpet beetles belong to the insect family Dermestidae. These insects have the unusual ability to digest a substance called keratin. This is a protein that is found in animal fur, wool, silk, hair, horns, and feathers.
The carpet beetles eat during the larva stage of their life cycle. In nature carpet beetle larvae are scavengers. The adults deposit their eggs in or near the nests of birds or rodents. The larvae feed on any debris that they find in the area.
Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen, so they often gather on flowering shrubs in residential neighborhoods. They move into homes to seek places to deposit their eggs. They place the eggs in dark corners, behind baseboards, and under furniture.
The larvae wander around the home in search of food. They can normally find something to eat in almost every room of the home. Many years ago, the larvae would feed on woolen carpeting and felt carpet padding. They also attacked upholstered furniture and the horsehair that served as stuffing in the furniture.
In the 21st century, the larvae attack woolens and silks. They attack fabrics that are blends – they eat the natural fibers and leave the synthetics. They will even attack garments made of synthetic fabric if the garment has been stained with perspiration.
Carpet beetle larvae usually eat the fabric on the surface. Over time, they can make holes in the fabric like moth larvae. Unlike moths, carpet beetle larvae do not spin webbing while they are eating.
Some species of carpet beetles attack furs by removing the hairs at the base. They leave the skin intact. Many carpet beetle larvae attack furs and brushes by eating the tips of the bristles. Their feeding leaves uneven patches in the bristles.
If carpet beetle larvae are feeding in a confined space, small piles of fecal pellets may be visible. In open areas, the pellets may not be noticeable.
Carpet beetle larvae can be very destructive in museums where they attack insect collections. In homes, they move into the voids inside of hollow walls and feed on dead insects and spiders that are there.
In many homes, the larvae find a wealth of boxelder bugs, ladybugs, and cluster flies that hibernated inside the walls. As the carpet beetle population increases, they can move out of the walls and attack draperies and other furnishings in the home.