Concerned about carpet beetles?

Appearance and behaviour

  • Carpet beetles are a fairly common pest, they occur naturally outdoors.
  • There are several species of carpet beetle. The most common types are the black 'fur beetle' (attagenus pelio) which has a single white spot on each wing case and the 'varied carpet beetle' (anthrenus verbasci). The fur beetle is oblong shaped and 4 to 6mm long, the varied carpet beetle is more oval in shape resembling a small mottled brown, grey and cream ladybird.
  • Larvae of carpet beetles are fairly distinctive and are known as 'woolly bears'. They are quite hairy and tan in colour. There may be tail bristles as well.
  • An adult female will produce up to one hundred creamy white eggs and deposit them in cracks and crevices. Within four weeks the eggs hatch and the emergent woolly bears embark on a continuous feeding binge and moult several times before pupating; the length of the larval life is normally 60-70 days but this may increase or decrease depending on temperature, humidity and diet.
  • They have a capacity to hibernate in cold conditions and to remerge in spring.
  • The adult lives for up six weeks during which time it will fly off in search of pollen and nectar and for egg laying sites.

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Significance

The carpet beetle is a major textile pest of the home where central heating provides a welcome uniform heating and fitted carpets provide harbourage for undisturbed breeding.

Carpet beetles neither carry germs nor do they spread disease hence their presence does not constitute a risk to health. However, the activities of the woolly bears will cause damage and indeed ruin carpets, animal furs and leathers.

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Control

  • It is important to first trace the source of the infestation. Check the roofspace for old birds' nests and wool based lagging or other materials, examine the cracks between floorboards around the edges of rooms and under skirting boards for accumulations of debris and check sheepskin rugs and all animal fur/skin clothing.
  • Infested nests and inexpensive materials should be removed and burned and the areas from which they have been removed thoroughly vacuumed using a nozzle head and paying particular attention to cracks and crevices.
  • The above should be complemented by treating using a residual (crawling insect) insecticide to ensure that all larvae have been killed.

Pesticides are available from hardware stores, make sure you read and follow the instructions before use.