Holes in carpets, clothes and other soft furnishings are often wrongly mistaken for the damage of moths within the home, however did you know these are actually the number one signs of the common household pest: the carpet beetle? As the name suggests, these small insects love to feast on carpets, but don’t be fooled, they can do irreparable damage to all types of fabrics if left unchecked.
Here we will look at what exactly carpet beetles are, how to recognise the common signs of infestation, how to treat infestations and what further steps you can take to prevent carpet beetles entering your home.
Carpet beetles are small, oval shaped, winged insects measuring around 2-4mm in length (adult), like typical beetles they are identified by their domed body, six legs and paired antennae.
Carpet beetles can further be catagorised into two types, ‘Varied/Variegated’, which typically have orange, black, and brown colouring with varying degrees of white speckling, and the aptly named ‘Black carpet beetle’, which has a more uniform, all-black colour.
Most damage caused by infestations is not actually caused by the adult beetles themselves, but instead the fabric eating carpet beetle larvae, or as they are more commonly known, ‘woolly bear’.
Wooly bears have a striped or ‘banded’ patterning and are covered in tiny hairs, similar in appearance to small furry caterpillars. With life cycles lasting around 3-4 weeks, females laying around 50-100 eggs per nest site and larvae hatching just 7 to 28 days later, the earlier an infestation is identified and treated, the better!
Inspection & Planning:
Our Expert British Pest Control Association (BPCA) certified carpet beetle exterminator will survey your premises and confirm that the infestation is actually carpet beetles (often people are not sure). They will examine the extent of the infestation and the tailor the most cost-effective individual control and eradication plan. A COSHH and risk assessment will also be carried out in accordance with legal requirements.
STEP 2: First Chemical Spray Treatment:
All furniture and rooms throughout the house would be sprayed with professional strength insecticide. This would eradicate any live carpet beetles that come into contact with the spray but would not kill their eggs as they are protected by a tough outer shell( each carpet beetle lays roughly 40 eggs).
STEP 3: Second Chemical Spray:
Your technician would re-visit your property approximately one week later and repeat the above process to ensure that any hatched carpet beetles are exterminated.
STEP 4: Final Chemical Spray:
By the third visit, only young carpet beetles that haven't sexually matured would be present and therefore would not have laid eggs. These young beetles would be eliminated by the final spray and their life-cycle would be broken.
Unfortunately carpet beetles can enter your home in a whole manner of ways, from flying in through open windows, being brought in on already infested fabrics, furnishings and animal furs, to even being carried in on a plant bought from the supermarket!
Usually, early infestations are easily treated with regular household cleaning and vacuuming, however persistent problems are encountered when the beetles are able to find a good source of food: lint, hair and other debris of organic/animal origin such as dead insects and skin. As these ‘foods’ typically accumulate under furniture, floorboards and other difficult to reach areas, carpet beetles are able to thrive in such places.
Larvae ‘graze’ along the surface of materials as they feed, leaving irregular shaped holes or threadbare spots. As carpet beetles primarily feed on organic and animal-based materials, wool, felt, fur, silk, feathers and leather are often targeted, for this reason damages are commonly identified on jumpers, scarves, coats, blankets, rugs, bed linen (particularly down), upholstery etc.
Larvae tend to feed within the folds of fabrics, so damage restricted to these areas on clothing such as collars, cuffs etc. can also be an indicative sign of carpet beetle larvae activity.
As larvae grow they shed their skin (molt), finding such molt is sure sign of infestation. Similarly, infestation may also be identified through the finding of tiny (¼ – ½ mm) white/cream specks on furnishings and within dusty areas of your home, these are the eggs of the beetle.
Carpet beetles can survive in a huge variety of places, so if you have suspicion of infestation but are unable to find the cause, be sure to call your local pest control!
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In addition to routine vacuuming, regularly cleaning around skirting boards, under furniture, under rugs, and other places carpet beetles frequent can help prevent infestation. Any items that are likely to be infested (such as wool jumpers, silk scarfs etc.) should be washed at high heat and dried before being stored for extended periods.
Washing at high heats kills any eggs or larvae present and can also help to remove any odours and oils which can attract pests.
Carpet beetles and their larvae rarely infest items that are regularly used and cleaned, if items are going to be stored for an extended period of time you may also wish to further protect items by placing them in a plastic bag or container. As beetles can also live within dried foods, similar measures should be taken to make sure food is well sealed from potential pests!
Using insect nets on exterior windows and doors can prevent beetles making their way into your home of their own accord. Further to this, any gaps and cracks around windows and doors should also be fully sealed.
Plants and flowers should be inspected for pests before being brought into your home, you may also wish to wash or treat any second-hand items before using them within your home (particularly if they are made of commonly affected materials i.e. wools, taxidermy).
If you find a carpet beetle infestation within your home, you can treat the infested areas effectively with a vacuum cleaner. Focus on removing debris, eggs and larvae from small areas that may be missed during regular vacuuming.
Once vacuumed, residual insecticide should be applied to the affected areas, again being sure to treat harder to reach cracks and crevices.
Any furnishings that cannot be removed for machine washing (e.g. upholstered chairs etc.) should also be treated with insecticide. Smaller soft furnishings within the home such as clothes, cushions etc. can be washed at a high heat to remove any eggs and to kill larvae and adult stage beetles.
Freezing items can also kill any beetle/larvae present as the insects are unable to tolerate the rapid temperature change. Although this is less commonly used as a treatment it can be useful to treat delicate items where insecticides or washing cannot be used (e.g. taxidermy, paper documents)
In order to guarantee carpet beetles are effectively and permanently removed it is always best to contact a licensed pest control expert such as Pestcure Ltd.
Our technicians are professionally trained to the highest standards (BPCA) British pest control association certified, and offer the safest and fastest option for pest control.
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Carpet beetles and their larvae are relatively harmless to humans and do not bite, although airborne rough hairs released by the larvae can cause rashes and irritation to exposed skin. If the area of skin is highly raised or has a characterising shape/pattern it is likely caused by another common biting pest such as fleas. Contact your local pest control services for the best advice if you are unsure on what pest may be present in your home.
Although rare, when infestations are left untreated for an extended period they can lead to breathing difficulties and eye irritation, again a result of the accumulation of irritating hairs released by beetle larvae.
Like all beetles, carpet beetles can fly through the air using wings that are hidden and protected by a hard casing when not in use.
Carpet beetle larvae will feast on any organic materials, meaning they can be found pretty much anywhere in the home!
Commonly effected items include:
The average life cycle of a carpet beetle is around three to four weeks.
It is a common misconception that many pests ‘die-off’ in winter, however this is not the case! Although it may be less common for initial infestation to happen during winter as they are less active due to colder temperatures,
carpet beetles may lay eggs within the home during late summer. Once these eggs hatch, infestation often persists through winter as larvae and adults are able to survive within the warmer temperatures provided by the indoor environment in the home.
Although possible, it is unlikely that carpet beetles will live within your bed as this is an area that is frequently disturbed. Pests found in the bed are more likely to be bed bugs (commonly mistaken for carpet beetles). Infestations of bed bugs can be hard to manage effectively, if you have suspicion of bed bug infestation contact your local pest control as soon as possible
Carpet beetles are attracted to the organic food source provided by dried food such as flours, rice and pastas. Prevent beetles getting into your foodstuffs by always ensuring foods are tightly sealed before storage.
Carpet beetles can easily be transported, and due to the types of organic materials found in cars such as leathers, upholsteries, and rubbers, they are sadly no exception to infestation. If signs of infestation are found in the home, any cars that are in use by the household members should also be treated.