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What to Know About Black Carpet Beetles

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 05, 2021

If you have ever woken up with itchy welts on your skin, you probably started to worry about bedbugs. Those tiny pests are a common culprit in cases of unexplained bites and itching. But there’s another household insect pest that can cause skin irritation: the black carpet beetle.

Carpet beetles are found all over North America. They are tiny and hard to spot. They will eat any sort of natural fiber, so they love to infest carpets, closets, and drawers where they can eat fabrics made of wool, cotton, and fur. They are destructive to household items, and they can cause skin problems in humans.

What Are Black Carpet Beetles?

Three kinds of carpet beetles are common in the U.S. The black carpet beetle is the most prevalent, and it lives all over the country. They live indoors and outdoors, where they like to eat plants, fabrics, and any other easy source of protein.

These beetles have four stages in their life cycle:

Egg. Black carpet beetles lay about 90 eggs apiece. The eggs hatch in 6 to 16 days.

Larva. The beetles emerge from their eggs as larvae. They are about 5/16th of an inch long, and long and slim. Their bodies are covered with bristly hairs. The beetles will stay in the larval stage for 6 months to a year.

Pupa. The larva eventually develops into the pupal stage, where it retreats into a cocoon-like case to finish maturing. That stage lasts for 8 to 14 days.

Adult. An adult black carpet beetle is about 1/8 of an inch long and black. It can fly and crawl, much like all other types of beetles.

As larvae, the beetles eat natural fibers. They tend to prefer dark, quiet spots with a ready food supply. Any space where you store fabrics in your home would be attractive to black carpet beetles. Some of their common food sources are:

  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Fur
  • Pet hair
  • Feathers

Carpet beetles cause damage to the items that they eat. They leave holes in fabric similar to the holes left by clothes moths. They can damage furniture or carpeting, as well.

Adult beetles prefer to live outdoors, where they feed on pollen from plants. They emerge in the spring. You may find them on window ledges in your house.

Do Black Carpet Beetles Bite?

You may realize you have black carpet beetles because you notice the damage to fabric in our house. You might begin to suspect you have some kind of pest after finding itchy welts on your skin. The carpet beetles may be the cause of your discomfort, but not because they bite.

Unlike bedbugs or mosquitoes, carpet beetles don't bite living things. The irritation they cause is because of an allergy you have to their bodies. Some people are allergic to the hairs on carpet beetle larvae. Coming into contact with them causes itchy, raised welts or rashes.

Not everyone is allergic to carpet beetle larvae. This makes them different from bedbugs, which most people find allergenic. If you have carpet beetles in your house, not everyone in your family may react to them.

If you have a rash from carpet beetles, you can treat it with over-the-counter antihistamines or anti-itch creams. You can also talk to your doctor about prescription treatments.

Controlling Black Carpet Beetles in Your Home

Carpet beetles can be difficult to get rid of once they’re in your home. The hardest part is locating them. They hide in hard-to-notice places, so you may not know where the infestation is. You may find evidence of the pests in out-of-the-way spots such as:

  • The edges of carpets
  • Closets
  • Inside the lining of clothing
  • Under or inside furniture
  • Air vents or ductwork
  • Areas where birds or rodents have nested, such as attics or basements

You can kill beetles with extreme temperatures. Washing clothes in hot water will get rid of carpet beetles, as will using high heat in a dryer. For clothes that you can't machine-wash, you can wrap them in plastic and put them in a freezer for two weeks.

After cleaning infested clothes, you can store them in plastic to protect them from any remaining beetles. In the future, before you store seasonal clothes, wash or dry clean them and store them in plastic.

Steam cleaning carpets and furniture can help kill carpet beetles, as well. Glue traps can prevent them from moving around your house. Frequent vacuuming will also reduce the likelihood of beetles spreading in your home.

Some chemical insecticides help kill beetles. Products that work on fleas can be helpful. You can call a professional exterminator if you want an expert opinion.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Michigan State University: "Carpet beetles."

Penn State Extension: "Carpet Beetle Dermatitis."

University of California Statewide IPM Program: "Carpet Beetles."

University of Kentucky, COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT: "Carpet Beetles."

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