Carpet Beetles and their Control

Extreme close-up of a carpet beetle.

Carpet beetles (sometimes called "carpet bugs," "carpet worms," or "rug bugs" -- all incorrectly) are true beetles that feed primarily on animal-based proteins like wool and leather. They're commonly found infesting woolen carpeting, shoes, down, feathers, and stored clothing.

There are several species of carpet beetles that range in color from black to randomly multi-colored (seriously), and they can do a lot of damage in a relatively short time.

Carpet beetles will also feed on dead animals, such as rats, mice, and birds. So if some sort of animal gets into your house and dies, there's a chance that a carpet beetle infestation might follow. And then when they've finished consuming the dead animal, they'll look for other things to eat.

Another common source of carpet beetle problems is pet food, especially dried dog and cat food that comes in bags. The beetles may come in with the food, or they may come in from outside and infest the food. They'll eat human food that is rich in protein, too. They're especially fond of beef jerky or other dried meats, but they'll eat pretty much anything if they get hungry enough.

What all this means is that as is the case with pest control in general, there's a great deal you can do non-chemically to prevent carpet beetle problems. Sometimes, in fact, you can even solve the problem yourself using no chemicals at all. In any case, trying the following methods will help minimize the amount of insecticide needed if you do need our help.

Non-Chemical Carpet Beetle Prevention and Treatment

Adult and larval black carpet beetles on carpeting.

The first thing you need to understand about carpet beetles is that it's the larvae, not the adults, that do the damage. They're voracious feeders, and they start eating as soon as they hatch. They're also difficult to remove from carpeting and other fibers because of the small hair-like structures on their bodies, and they're hard to see in similarly-colored fibers.

What this means is that just because you don't see any adult beetles, it doesn't mean that the problem is solved. It also means that if you're going to try non-chemical control, and the beetles are actually in your carpeting, you will need a powerful vacuum cleaner and a powerful, preferably commercial-grade carpet shampooer. Both the vacuum cleaner and the shampooer should have rotating brushes to help dislodge the larvae from the carpet.

Thoroughly vacuum the carpeting, and then thoroughly shampoo it, using a quality detergent made for the machine mixed in with the hottest water you can use in the machine (and that the carpet will stand). Check with the carpeting manufacturer first to make sure that the detergent you're using and the water temperature won't harm the carpet.

Also thoroughly vacuum and shampoo any upholstered furniture, following the same guidelines as above; and wash or dry-clean any draperies.

In addition to the above, make sure that all pet food is stored in beetle-proof containers, and wash or dry clean every stitch of clothing in the house, and store it in an area away from anywhere the beetles or their evidence were seen.

Once you've done all that... well, do it all over again three or four days later. That's about how long it takes for carpet beetle eggs to hatch, and you want to try to get them all.

If you do all this, you haver a pretty good chance of solving your carpet beetle problem yourself, using no insecticides at all. At the very worst, you'll have a really spiffy home, and you'll have reduced the amount of insecticide we need to put the final kibosh on the carpet beetles.

Professional Carpet Beetle Control

If you try all of the above, and you still have carpet beetles, then you need our help. We use a variety of low-odor products, including some that are naturally-derived, to solve carpet beetle problems. In most cases we limit our treatment to areas where we know or have a good reason to believe the carpet beetles are living.

We also try to find the source of a carpet beetle problem if it's not obvious. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the carpet beetles are eating something that died somewhere in the house, and which may or may not be retrievable. Either way, a light application of a low-toxicity insecticide (such as a pyrethrum or diatomaceous earth dust, for example) is advisable. Once the beetle larvae finish munching out on the dead thing, they're going to look for something else to eat.

What we really want to emphasize is that we don't believe in soaking your whole home with insecticide, and then hoping that we get lucky and kill the beetles somewhere in the process. The best way to solve a carpet beetle problem is to start with intense cleaning; and then follow up with localized, precision application of insecticides, only if needed, and only where needed.

Please contact us for more information about carpet beetle control or any of our fine services.


Jarrod's Corner

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