Carpet beetles feed on animal and plant substances such as wool, fur, feathers, hair, hides, horns, silk, velvet, felts and bone as well as seeds, grain, cereals, cake mixes, red pepper, rye meal and flour. Other substances include powdered milk, dog and cat food, leather, book bindings, dead insects, bird and rodent nests, and even cotton, linen, rayon, and jute, especially when stained with spilled food and animal excreta. The larvae cause the damage, crawling from room to room and living behind baseboards and moulding, and in heating system air ducts, dresser drawers, carpets, clothing and furniture. Feeding damage often occurs under heavy furniture or pianos and at carpet edges. Adult beetles fly readily in May and June. They are attracted to night-lights, and may enter through an open window or door. Some may be brought in accidentally on cut flowers or in furniture that has been in storage or sent out for repair.
Adult black carpet beetles are oval and shiny-black with brownish legs. They vary in body length from 3 to 4mm. Larvae, frequently staying hidden when feeding, are golden to dark brown and about 1.27cm long. The body resembles an elongated carrot or cigar with a long brush of bristles at the tail end. Adult varied carpet beetles are about 2 to 3mm long and nearly round. The top body surface is usually grey with a mixture of white, brown and yellow scales and irregular black crossbands. The bottom surface has long, grey-yellow scales. (These scales are 2-1/2 to 4 times as long they are broad.) Larvae are about 6mm and light to dark brown. The body is wide and broader at the rear than the front. Adult common carpet beetles are about 2 to 3mm long, nearly round, and grey to black. They have minute, whitish scales and a band of orange-red scales down the middle of the back and around the eyes. Larvae, frequently moving rapidly, are elongated, oval, reddish-brown, about 6mm long and are covered with many brownish-black hairs. Adult furniture carpet beetles are about 1 to 3mm long, nearly round and whitish checkered with black spots, each outlined with yellowish orange scales. These scales are broadly oval and two times or less long as broad. The legs have yellow scales. The bottom surface of the body is white. Colour patterns vary. Larvae, frequently crawling rapidly, are about 6mm, elongated, oval and covered thickly with brownish hair.
Locate the source of infestation before treatment. Carpet beetle larvae prefer to feed in dark, undisturbed, protected places. Use a flashlight and nail file to check in such places as under baseboards, in and under upholstered furniture, piano felts, air ducts, stuffed animal trophies, stored cereals, bird nests under eaves, rodent nests, wasp nests in attics, dead birds or rodents in wall voids, woollens, clothes closets, furs, etc. Often the cast skins are more abundant than the larvae. Adult beetles flying around windows may help in locating the infestation.
Good housekeeping is critical. Use a strong suction vacuum cleaner with proper attachments to remove lint, hair and dust from floors, shelves and drawers. Periodically brush, air outside, or dry-clean furs, woollens, blankets, etc. Clean rugs, carpets, draperies, furniture, baseboards, air vents, mouldings and other hard-to-reach places regularly. Destroy untreated worthless animal skins or hides, valueless insect collections, old woollen rags and old clothing. Cedar-lined closets and chests help but are not 100 percent effective.
Woollen carpets, clothing and blankets may be sprayed lightly with a ready-to-use aerosol spray such as resmethrin before placing in storage. Do not over-apply and be sure to dry-clean clothing before wearing after they have been in storage. Upholstered furniture and pillows may require fumigation by a pest control operator where surface sprays would not be effective. After thoroughly cleaning under heavy furniture, rugs, rug pads and carpets, especially around the edges, apply insecticide crack and crevice sprays and spot treatments. Apply coarse spray surface treatments along edges of wall-to-wall carpeting in closets, corners, cracks, baseboards, mouldings and other hiding places. Spraying surfaces where insects crawl or hide is very effective. Some carpets and their dyes may be susceptible to running and discoloration by certain insecticides. (If in doubt, conduct a small test of the product on the target carpet or similar material before treating.) Use of dusts in voids will offer long-term treatment.
William F. Lyon
Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.
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