Carpet beetles belong to the family of beetles known as dermestids. These insects are pests in warehouses, homes, museums, and other locations where suitable food exists. In California, three species of carpet beetles cause serious damage to fabrics, carpets, furs, stored foods, and preserved specimens. |
Carpet beetles are among the most difficult indoor pests to control because of their ability to find food in obscure places and to disperse widely throughout a building. Successful control depends on integrating the use of sanitation and exclusion, and, where necessary, insecticides. In older adults the scales that form this pattern wear off so the beetles appear solid brown or black. Outdoors, female beetles search out spider webs and nests of bees, wasps, and birds in which to lay their eggs. The nests contain dead insects, beeswax, pollen, feathers, or other debris that can serve as larval food. Indoors, beetles deposit eggs on or near wool carpets and rugs, woolen goods, animal skins, furs, stuffed animals, leather book bindings, feathers, animal horns, whalebone, hair, silk, dried plant products, and other materials that can serve as larval food.
Carpet beetle adults do not feed on fabrics but seek out pollen and nectar. They are attracted to sunlight and are commonly found feeding on the flowers of crape myrtle, spiraea, buckwheat, and other plants that produce abundant pollen. Be careful not to bring these pests into the home on cut flowers—with their rounded bodies and short antennae, carpet beetles somewhat resemble lady beetles in shape.
When carpet beetles threaten products in commercial warehouses or storage areas, a monitoring program using sticky traps baited with an appropriate pheromone, a chemical attractant produced by an organism to attract others of the same species is recommended. Traps placed throughout a building can show where beetles are coming from; the traps are also useful for monitoring the effectiveness of control applications. Check traps once or twice a week. Pheromone traps can also be used to augment other control methods when used to attract adult males in small, confined areas. Sticky traps are also available without a pheromone; these traps can be placed on window sills to trap adults that fly to windows. Plain sticky traps are available in retail stores; sticky traps with a pheromone can often be purchased from local pest control operators or from distributors of pesticide supplies.
Damage is caused by the larval stage of dermestid beetles. Larvae feed in dark, undisturbed locations on a variety of dead animals and animal products, such as wool, silk, leather, fur, hair brushes with natural bristles, pet hair, and feathers; occasionally they feed on stored products such as certain spices and grains. They do not feed on synthetic fibers.
It is not always possible to tell from the damage whether it was caused by clothes moths or carpet beetles, but in general, the beetles are more likely to damage a large area on one portion of a garment or carpet while moth damage more often appears as scattered holes. Also, carpet beetle larvae leave brown, shell-like, bristly looking cast skins when they molt. These skins and the lack of webbing are usually good clues that the culprits are carpet beetles.
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