What Are Carpet Beetles, and Can They Hurt You?
Carpet beetles are a type of beetle commonly found in homes.
They may be found anywhere, but mostly live in:
- air vents
The adults are 1/16 to 1/8 inch long and oval-shaped. They range in color from black to speckled with white, brown, yellow, and orange.
Larvae — young carpet beetles — are 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and tan or brownish. They’re covered with bristles and shed their skin as they grow.
Carpet beetles are more of a threat to your clothes and rugs than to you.
Do carpet beetle bite?
Carpet beetles don’t bite humans. They’re scavengers, which means they feed mostly on dead animal products or other debris. In addition, they feed on dry substances.
Carpet beetle rash
Some people can be allergic to carpet beetles, although most aren’t. Specifically, the allergy is to larvae bristles or skin that’s been shed.
They can cause an allergic reaction if they come into contact with your:
- digestive tract
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to carpet beetles include:
- red, itchy, and watery eyes
- runny nose
- itchy skin
- rash, which looks like welts or bites, and may cause a burning sensation
- gastrointestinal issues
The symptoms of an allergic reaction will go away once the carpet beetles and their shed skin are eliminated from your home.
There’s also some evidence that people become desensitized with long-term exposure, but getting rid of the beetles is usually the best option.
Other harmful risks
Although carpet beetles don’t pose any risk to humans beyond a potential allergic reaction, the larvae do chew through the fabric, doing damage that’s often mistaken for moths.
In general, they only eat natural, animal-based fabrics such as:
They may also eat items such as natural hair brushes with natural fibers, hair, and other human and animal debris that collects around the house.
Carpet beetles don’t usually eat cotton, linen, or other plant-based or synthetic fabrics, but they may eat fabric blends or fabrics stained with animal products.
They often eat along the edges or in folds of fabric, as well as the underside of rugs.
Only the larvae feed on fabric. Adults eat nectar and pollen.
What attracts carpet beetles?
Carpet beetles are often attracted to light and warmth indoors. Often, they’ll just fly inside your home but can also get inside on pets or clothes.
Some species may infest seeds, cereal, pet food, and other plant-based items, and come in with those. Once inside, they may be attracted to sweat odors on clothes.
To help prevent carpet beetles from entering your home:
- Wash and dry clean clothing before storing it for long periods. This will kill any eggs and get rid of sweat odors.
- Store clothes in airtight containers and check them once in a while for carpet beetles.
- Use mothballs in your closet and with stored clothing.
- Regularly clean your carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture, as well as air vents and baseboards.
- Check flowers for carpet beetles before bringing them inside.
- Install screens on your doors and windows, or keep them closed.
- Remove dead insects, spider webs, and animal nests from your home.
How to get rid of carpet beetles
Seeing beetles — especially larvae — or their skin can be a sign that you have a carpet beetle infestation.
If you do, it’s important to find where carpet beetles may be living or laying eggs. Look at all items with fabrics they may eat, and be sure to pay attention to folds and creases in the fabric.
Once you have all the items that are infested:
- Wash, dry clean, or get rid of any infested items. If you wash them, use hot water. You can also get rid of carpet beetles and their eggs by freezing the fabric for about 2 weeks.
- If you can’t clean something, spray it with an insecticide that’s safe for indoor use. Be sure to follow the instructions. Never spray insecticide on bedding or clothing.
- Vacuum floors, carpets, and heating vents, especially along their edges.
If you have a serious infestation, you might need professional fumigation.
Do I have carpet beetles or bed bugs?
If carpet beetles are living in your bed, it can be hard to tell if you have them or bed bugs. Both can live in mattresses and other bedding and are attracted to the carbon dioxide you exhale as you sleep.
Both carpet beetles and bed bugs can cause welt-like rashes. However, rashes from bed bugs are from bites, while rashes from carpet beetles are from allergic reactions.
If only one person in the bed is getting bites or a rash, it’s more likely that you have carpet beetles. This is because most people are allergic to bed bugs, but allergies to carpet beetles are rarer.
Bed bugs leave signs like red or dark stains on sheets. The telltale signs of carpet beetles are their shed skins. Because carpet beetle larvae are bigger than bed bugs, you may be more likely to see the beetles themselves.
If you’re not sure which you have, you can have an exterminator come to look for bedbugs. If they don’t find any, you might have carpet beetles.
Carpet beetles can be an annoyance in your home.
They may eat through your clothes, rugs, and furniture. They can also sometimes cause an allergic reaction.
However, they don’t bite and don’t otherwise pose any danger to humans.