Spotting signs of carpet beetles are often the only clue you’ll have to their presence. That’s because carpet beetles are ninjas at staying hidden, especially during the time they can cause the most damage to your belongings.
Adult carpet beetles like to lay their eggs in tucked-away corners like cracks and crevices in your furniture or deep in carpet where their little offspring won’t be discovered. Once the carpet beetle eggs hatch and enter the larval stage, they avoid light.
All that means is that often, the first clue that you have a carpet beetle infestation is the damage they cause. Which as upsetting as it is, can serve as useful signs of carpet beetles, like:
- Damage to your cashmere, silk, and woolen clothes
- Holes and bare areas on wool, wool-blend, or sheepskin rugs
- Hairs falling out of furs due to small holes
- Damage to leather shoes and clothing
- Shed larval skins in dark, hidden areas
- Small beetle-like bugs on your walls and around windows
Learning to quickly identify these often subtle carpet beetles signs is the key to eliminating an infestation before it becomes full-blown. Let’s take a deep dive into what you’ll need to look for.
What are Signs of Carpet Beetles?
Like the bed bugs they are occasionally mistaken for, carpet beetles are good at staying hidden. So you’ll have to get good at knowing what to watch out for.
Here are the unmistakeable signs of carpet beetles.
Carpet Beetle Damage
Carpet beetles got their name back in the day when most carpets were made from wool. So it’s not necessarily carpet that they are after – despite their name, carpet beetles will eat anything that contains keratin.
Carpet beetle larvae, which is the stage of life in which carpet beetles cause the most damage to your household, need keratin to grow and develop. So your synthetic materials will remain untouched. But anything that contains keratin – wool, fur, silk, leather, suede, skins, felt, cashmere, feathers – is fair game.
So what does carpet beetle damage look like? Here’s where to start looking.
The Carpet and Rugs
If you have carpet made of synthetic fibers, you may be safe from carpet damage from these pesky beetles. But if you have natural fiber carpets, you’ll want to start here.
Carpet beetle larvae will chew bare spots in wool rugs or carpets, as well as sheepskin rugs. They also eat fur, and will leave bald patches where they’ve chewed the hairs away.
Carpet beetle larvae like to graze the tops and the undersides of carpets so if the infestation has been ongoing, you’ll spot bald patches, fraying, or strange bald spots like in the picture above.
Clothing and Fabrics
Your pricier clothing may not escape unscathed from a carpet beetle infestation – check your cashmeres, silks, and woolen fabrics. Carpet beetles have expensive tastes.
The clothes you wear often will probably be untouched since carpet beetle larvae avoid light and prefer to feast in dark, isolated areas. So check any fabrics and clothing that you have stored away or have been untouched for awhile.
Found some holes in your precious fabrics? You’ll know it’s carpet beetles if the holes appear in large clusters rather than tiny holes here and there. Carpet moths, another common fabric-munching pest, usually leave behind small, scattered holes.
Depending on the species, you may also find damage to stored products such as cereals and grains. Carpet beetle larvae are perfectly capable of chewing through paper and cardboard packaging to get to the food inside.
The Shoe Closet
Last but not least, carpet beetles aren’t above laying eggs in, say, your special occasional leather loafers. So your shoe bin isn’t safe either.
Besides the damage they cause, you may start to see signs of the carpet beetles themselves.
Larvae are good at staying hidden, but they do need to shed their skins to grow, and you may start to find these tiny yellow to orange shed skins showing up underneath furniture, along baseboards, and in other difficult-to-access places.
These shed skins can look similar to the skins that bed bugs shed. One way to distinguish whether it is carpet beetles is to look at the shape. Carpet beetle shed skins are shaped like sunflower seeds and will be slightly elongated. Bed bug shed skins are rounder.
It’s creepy to think about but if you find even one carpet beetle larva (or its shed skin), that alone is a sign of an infestation since a carpet beetle will lay around 90 eggs in one go. You can bet there’s more where that came from.
Carpet Beetle Poop
Everyone poops – even carpet beetle larvae. As they feast on your household belongings, they’ll leave tiny fecal pellets lying around. You’ll need to look closely for these because they are not easy to spot, being roughly the same size as table salt.
The color of these pellets can vary depending on what they’ve been eating, but typically carpet beetle poop will be black or brown.
Look for evidence of these in areas where carpet beetle larvae are likely to feed.
Carpet Beetle Rash
Carpet beetles don’t bite people but the tiny hairs shed by the larvae as they grow and mature can build up on carpet or wherever else they have been roaming.
If you’ve been exposed to these bristly hairs for awhile, it can result in an allergic reaction known as carpet beetle rash. This skin irritation can show up as a rash or even as red, itchy welts that look a lot like insect bites.
Carpet Beetle Allergy Symptoms
Although carpet beetle rash gets the most press, living with an infestation of carpet beetles can result in other allergy symptoms as well. That can include respiratory tract irritation and common allergic responses like coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and red, itchy eyes.
One interesting study found that a five-year-old boy had experienced recurrent nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching every winter season for four years although skin prick tests showed he wasn’t allergic to any common regional allergens.
But when the carpet beetle infestation in his home was cleared, his allergies completely disappeared.
Which goes to show that although carpet beetles aren’t classified as an allergen yet, recurring allergy symptoms could be an infestation sign of carpet beetles.
Adult Carpet Beetles
Finally, keep an eye out for the bugs themselves. If you have a carpet beetle infestation, you’ll start to see these bugs showing up on your walls and windows before long.
Once they emerge as adults, carpet beetles are attracted to the light and will often head toward a window, trying to get outside. And if you see an adult carpet beetle buzzing around your house, you can bet it’s laid its eggs there.
If you spot a bug that looks like it could be a carpet beetle, keep in mind that carpet beetles come in many different varieties but most adults are oval-shaped and around 1 to 4 millimeters in length. They tend to move slowly and will roll over when touched.
Whether it’s an adult carpet beetle or the larvae you’ve spotted, if you’ve seen one – you’ve definitely got more. And there’s no time to dither.
So whatever stage of carpet beetle you may have found – take it as a sign of a carpet beetle infestation and get busy.
Here’s how to get rid of carpet beetles – every last one of them.