Carpet Beetle Infestation
Many carpet beetle infestations begin outdoors. Adult carpet beetles are attracted to flowers, so they cluster in flowerbeds and on flowering shrubs. Many species of carpet beetles must have a meal of pollen before they begin to produce eggs. Homeowners often do not notice the little black or multi-colored insects outside their home.
The adult beetles move indoors to find a place to put their eggs. They seek places where the newly hatched larvae will be able to find food. The adult beetles deposit their eggs in cracks behind baseboards, behind large pieces of furniture, and in dark corners.
Depending on the species, carpet beetle eggs hatch in about two weeks. The larvae are about 0.5″ long. Many larvae are carrot-shaped, although some species are wider at the tail than at the head. They may be tan, brown, or even black. Some have bands or stripes of a different color on their bodies.
Carpet beetle larvae have tufts of hairs on their bodies. Many people think these hairs make the larvae resemble bottlebrushes. Some of the hairs have sharp points and the larvae can use them for defense. These hairs can easily become airborne. When there are a large number of larvae in a home, the airborne hairs sometimes cause respiratory problems for the residents.
Carpet beetle larvae wander around the home looking for food. They are scavengers and they will eat most types of debris. They can digest wool, silk, fur, feathers, and hair. They will attack garments made of synthetic fabrics if they have been stained with perspiration. The larvae will also invade food packages in the pantry and eat things like cereal and flour.
When the larvae are feeding on fabric, they often eat fibers on the surface, but they can make holes like moths. Unlike moths, the carpet beetle larvae do not produce webbing as they eat. The larvae produce fecal pellets, but they are very tiny. The droppings usually blend in with the surface where the larvae are feeding, so people do not notice them.
As their bodies grow, the carpet beetle larvae shed their skins. This happens 15 or 20 times during their development. Homeowners often find these empty skins around the house. These are often the first sign of a carpet beetle infestation.
Inspection and sanitation are critical parts of controlling carpet beetle larvae. It is important to find everything the larvae are eating. Woolen garments and other fabrics should be cleaned. If they will not be used soon, they should be stored carefully.
In the kitchen, all infested food packages should be discarded. Vacuuming the pantry shelves can remove larvae, eggs, and food particles. If carpet beetle larvae have attacked antiques, mounted animal trophies, or other expensive or unusual items, it may be worthwhile to consult a specialist for advice about cleaning the item.