Carpet Beetles – The Facts
What does a carpet beetle look like?
There are two types of carpet beetle commonly found in Europe. They are both 3mm long, but the ‘fur beetle’ is black with a single white spot on each wing case, and the ‘varied carpet beetle’ is mottled with white, yellow and brown scales. Carpet beetle larvae are rice-sized, light brown in colour and covered in hair. The hairs enable them to stick to fibres.
How quickly do carpet beetles multiply?
Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen and nectar during their short lives. They spend just two to three summer weeks feasting and mating, until the female lays her 100 eggs. Then both males and females die off. The eggs hatch into larvae, also known as ‘woolly bears’ in four weeks. Under the right conditions, woolly bears can live up to two years. They need fibres to feed on and warmth; if the climate is too cold, they will hibernate until the temperature picks up. It is during this phase that the larvae cause irreparable damage.
Where do carpet beetles live?
Carpet beetle larvae feed on natural fibres, animal hair, feathers and dead insects. An adult will always find a good food source before laying its eggs nearby. Desirable locations include:
- Abandoned birds’ nests are a favourite site, especially if they are sheltered in eaves and lofts.
- The edging of fitted carpets along the central heating unit provides warmth, protection and a woolly bear banquet.
- If you have pets, moulted fur that has settled under floorboards provides undercover sustenance.
- Any storage facility that holds items made of fabric.
- Museums of insects, costumes and taxidermy are also good egg-laying sites.
What are the signs of a carpet beetle infestation?
- Damage to items made of fur, leather, cotton, wool and silk
- Moulted larval skin. The woolly bear will shed its skin several times before pupating.
- Once the larvae turn into adult carpet beetles, they will want to leave the house in order to drink pollen. This means that in the spring, you will see large numbers of the beetles on window panes, in their bid to find flowers.
Does a carpet beetle infestation need controlling?
Although carpet beetles do not carry diseases, they can devastate commercial enterprises by causing irreversible damage. Clothing outlets, museums, furniture shops and storage facilities can be the worst affected. Similarly, in the home, carpet beetle larvae can chew through woollen carpets and stored winter clothing, always choosing your most expensive garments as these are inevitably made from natural fibres.