Carpet Beetles: Are They The Next Bed Bugs?

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Invasion?

The Voice recently wrote about bugs' inevitable(?) triumph over humankind.

And though it doesn't look like bed bugs are necessarily going to be the creepy, crawly culprits who enslave us, we have recently learned about another species that comes out while you are asleep and defenseless: carpet beetles.

So what's the deal?

Writes bed bug expert Marcia Anderson on the EPA's "Greening the Apple" blog:

"Several months ago I received an e-mail from a city resident who was getting bites at night that she thought were from a spider. Large, and itchy, but with a burning sensation that told her they weren't mosquito bites. The problem escalated until she had over 40 red welts on her legs. 'I was getting groups of about 5-20 'bites' every night, and my husband had none, and he wore boxers! Also, after the first few nights, I was wearing heavy sweat pants to bed tucked into my socks, and still found marks!'"

Alas, even though it eventually seemed like bed bugs were to blame -- and one exterminator wanted to charge $1200 to eradicate them -- it turns out that carpet beetles had invaded their bedroom.

But why would the woman get "bites" when her husband was perfectly fine, you might ask?

Why, for the same reason carpet beetles might be a better uninvited guest than bed bugs. Yes, carpet beetles swarm to you during sleep because they like the CO2 you exhale, during "the wee hours of the morning." Unlike those bastard bed bugs, however, carpet beetles do not bite.

It's just that some people, like the unlucky woman who wrote in, happen to be allergic to the hairs on carpet beetle larvae.

What can be done? Check for larval skins near your bed and steam clean your carpets. If you don't have a sensitivity, they will still be a big problem because they eat fabric and even fur (like shy, secretive, flightless moths or something.)

Some more fun facts about your new enemy?

They are tiny!

This "common household pest" is about 1/16 to 1/8-inch long, oval, with "white and yellow-brown scales."

They are hairy!

They have three pairs of "hair tufts" near the back of their abdomen.

They are fertile!

Lady carpet beetles make 40 eggs in a lifetime, which hatch in 10-20 days.

They are hungry!

These bugs will even feed on insects, so they pose a grave danger to insect exhibits at natural history museums.

(Beetle info from Green Eco Environmental pest control)

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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7 comments
Laura Jones
Laura Jones

 I had these a few years ago.  I noticed holes in cashmere scarves and sweaters as well as on suede and shearling.  I knew it couldn't be moths.  They were hundreds in my hall closet and I had the have them exterminated.  They seem to only eat expensive things as the wool sweaters were untouched, but everything made of cashmere was destroyed.  Luckily they never made it into any other room in the apartment, but I did find them breeding in an old bag of dry dog food in the back of the closet.  Ever since then, I keep the dog food bag inside a huge, sealed plastic container.  While this is a horrific pest, it pales in comparison to bed bugs.

Lou Sorkin
Lou Sorkin

There are many more dermestid or carpet beetle species than the one pictured in the story; in fact, the black carpet beetle is more commonly encountered. The initial diagnosis of spider bite also was a often made mistake. The allergic response is not restricted to larval body hairs.

IdentifyUS
IdentifyUS

A considerable proportion of the 'bed bugs' submitted for evaluation turn out to be carpet beetles.   Carpet beetles won't be interested in a living person.  Once you 'buy the farm', however, you're fair game, and they'll turn you to dust. This is a good reason to stay alive.  Hairs on the immature beetles can sometimes cause irritation. Lesions on the skin are likely caused by yet other creatures that may be abundant where and when carpet beetles are thriving.  Those creatures should be sampled and submitted for evaluation. This often solves the mystery.Richard Pollack, PhD (IdentifyUS LLC)

Emma Green
Emma Green

Thanks for the clarification! I believe that I have some of these bugs in one of my storage closets, but the ones I have been seeing are more black than brown! I will have to start getting rid of them!

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