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Other Carpet Beetles

There are three other common species of carpet beetles that can be found in Michigan homes: the common, varied and furniture carpet beetles. The adults of these three species are similar in appearance; the larvae are nearly identical and difficult to tell apart. The adult varied carpet beetle, is broadly oval and about 3 mm (1/8 inch) long. The upper surface is tricolored with a varied pattern of white, brown and yellow scales on the back.

The larvae of this species are more rather wide in proportion to the length, and are slightly wider at the posterior end. They are about 7 mm (3/16 inch) long. In addition they have very thick patches of hairs on the sides of the abdomen near the posterior end. The larvae can be found in flour and spices, as well as in woolens, silk and other items of animal origin.

The length of the life cycle may vary quite a bit but usually it takes about one year to develop from egg to adult.

The adult common carpet beetle, looks similar to the other carpet beetles, but can be distinguished easily by the continuous series of bright brick red scales down the center of the back (the inner margins of the two wing covers).

The larvae look very similar to the varied carpet beetle. The larvae can be found in places similar to those in which the varied carpet beetle is found. The life cycle may be as short as 2 1/2 months, or may take up to a year or more.

The furniture carpet beetle, often attacks upholstered furniture. The adult furniture carpet beetle is very similar to the varied carpet beetle, being covered with yellow and white scales, but the individual scales are very broad. (Those on the varied carpet beetle are very narrow.) While they are common on upholstered furniture where they feed on hair, padding, feathers and woolen fabric they also commonly feed on woolens, carpets, fur, bristles, horns, and fabrics (wool, silk, linen, cotton, rayon and jute) - especially if these are stained with animal excreta or blood.

Integrated Carpet Beetle Management

The best way to combat carpet beetles is to prevent them from becoming established in the home. The best weapon is the vacuum cleaner. Rooms should be cleaned often enough to prevent the accumulation of hair, lint and other carpet beetle fodder. This is especially important in households that have pets indoors. Close attention should be given to carpets (especially under furniture), rugs, draperies, upholstered furniture, closets (especially where woolens and furs are stored), heat radiators and registers and associated duct work, corners, cracks, baseboards and moldings, and other hard-to-reach areas. Open containers of dried foodstuff and pet food should be regularly inspected for signs of carpet beetles and discarded if contaminated.

Launder or dry clean clothing or fabrics that are going to be stored for a period of time (e.g., woolens stored for the summer and old drapery you just cannot throw out until you try to unload it at next summer's garage sale.)

If used properly, mothballs are effective in protecting stored articles. Mothballs should be placed between two pieces of paper and layered into the articles being stored. Place layered articles in a chest or box that can be sealed tightly. CAUTION: mothballs are known to melt some plastics. They should not be used in plastic bags and may damage plastic buttons.

Cedar chests a re only effective in preventing carpet beetle damage if they can be sealed tightly. CAUTION:cedar oil loses its repellent qualities over time and chests will need to be recharged with a coat of cedar oil periodically.

Remove and dispose of abandoned nests (birds, wasps and hornets, squirrels) from eaves, wall voids and attics. Follow up maintenance should be done to exclude future nesting in these locations. If you have a cat that hunts and brings its pre home to eat it, the remains should be promptly disposed.

Controlling established infestations of carpet beetles begins with a thorough inspection of the premises to determine the extent of the problem. Next, perform all of the sanitation and preventative measures outlined above. This will eliminate food sources and most of the life forms.

Application of an insecticide registered for indoor use may be warranted to control an established infestation in carpeting and upholstered furniture. These items should be thoroughly cleaned before any insecticide is applied. CAUTION: certain fabrics and yes can be affected (staining or running) by certain formulations of insecticides, so test a small, hidden area with the product before applying it. The insecticide should be applied as a fine mists to carpets. If the furniture cannot be removed until the spray dries, place a small piece of foil between furniture legs and the carpet to prevent staining. IMPORTANT: great care should be taken not to allow children and pets onto the treated area before the insecticide has dried. Be sure to read the insecticide label before using any pesticide and follow all safety precautions stated on the label.

For a complete listing of suggested control option for all home, yard and garden insect pests contact your local Extension Service, found under local government in the phone book.

Read and follow instructions on the pesticide label. Heed all warnings. Check with your physician if you have any concerns regarding your personal health risk.


Revised by Tom Ellis, M.S., Department of Entomology

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