Are Carpet Beetles Harmful?

While carpet beetles pose more of a threat to materials than people, they are harmful and one of the most destructive household pests. The little bugs cause significant damage to household items, although they do not bite human beings. They feed on animal-based products such as wool, leather, hair, fur, felt, silk, and feather. 

Are carpet beetles harmful? Yes, carpet beetles can be harmful. They contaminate uncovered foods with feces and saliva, a risk to human health. Larvae can also cause carpet beetle dermatitis, respiratory tract irritation, and other allergic reactions. They are attracted to pets, making them scratch intensely and lose fur.

Carpet beetles live outdoors but are likely to invade indoors searching for shelter from harsh weather conditions. The carpet beetle lives in dark places such as crevices, cracks, drawers, cupboards, baseboards, closets, air vents, and attics. The most common species that pose a threat to your household include the Varied, Furniture, Black carpet beetles.

There is more to learn about this harmful household pest. Stick on as we uncover more on how they damage your belongings, your pets, and how to avoid their infestation. 

Carpet Beetle Or The Larvae: Which One Causes The Damage?

Surprisingly, the carpet beetle larvae are actually troublemakers. The Adults do not feed on fabric directly but are responsible for laying eggs that hatch into the larval stage. They lay 50-100 eggs on vulnerable materials, which hatch in a few weeks into the fabric-consuming larvae. The fertile grounds ensure that the offspring will have abundant food on hatching. The length of the larvae is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch and densely covered with hairs. 

Carpet beetle and larvae chart
Carpet beetle and carpet beetle larvae mug shots.

As they feed on materials, they leave spots and irregular holes and can be mistaken for cloth moths. Amazingly, you cannot find them feeding on synthetic fabrics unless blended with wool or soaked with oil or sweat.

The adults feed on pollen and nectar from flowers of buckwheat, spiraea, and other plants with abundant pollen.  Their life span ranges from 9 months to 3 years- it mostly depends on their diet and environmental conditions. Adult carpet beetles can fly, which makes them competent at getting into homes. Since they are overwintering pests, they are used to getting into our houses year after year. They reproduce fast and spread in a house like a wildfire. 

This Is How Carpet Beetles Can Harm Your family

The good news is, carpet beetles are non-toxic and do not transmit diseases as mosquitoes do. However, they can be harmful to people with allergies. Their larvae have tiny, hair-like bristles on their skin, which cause allergic reactions when they come into contact with your skin, eyes, airways, or digestive tract. They can leave little red bumps on the skin, which look similar to bedbug bites. 

If they are residing in your mattress or other beddings, it may be hard to distinguish the two.  Both can live in your beddings as they are attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale while sleeping.  Rashes from bed bugs are, however, from their bites as they feed on blood.  Allergic reactions may also cause itchy welts that can get infected if scratching is uncontrolled. 

Not to freak you out but the carpet beetles are known to gnaw on human hair. They crawl into beds while the victims are asleep and squat in the scalp.  They are also drawn by the scent of essential oils.

Long periods of exposure to the tiny bugs may cause carpet beetle dermatitis, which is characterized by pruritic rashes, itching, and papulovesicular rashes. The larvae usually hide in carpets, clothes, and blankets and get into contact with human skin quite efficiently. The airborne fibers of the insects can also cause eye and respiratory tract irritation. Symptoms of allergic reactions to carpet beetles include a running nose, itchy skin, gastrointestinal issues, hives, and red, itchy, and watery eye

The good news is that the symptoms usually go away once the pesky critters s and their shed skin are eliminated from your home. Interestingly, some people become desensitized with long-time exposure but getting rid of the insects is the best option.  Allergic reactions from carpet beetle larvae are more painful and less itchy than bites from other bugs such as bedbugs. 

When they infest a house, they leave behind excrement and saliva on unprotected food, which contaminates it and makes it a threat to human health on consumption. When bacteria get into the human body, they may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other infections.

How To Treat Carpet Beetle Allergies

Carpet beetle allergy treatment depends on how a person is affected. For painful itching, a sting swab will provide relief and also promote healing. For soreness, calamine lotion available at pharmacies will calm and soothe the affected area. Other ointments that you can try out include cortisone and Benadryl cream. 

Alternatively, you can make a cold press by wrapping ice or frozen vegetables with a towel and applying them to the sore area.  In severe cases, it is advisable to seek help from a dermatologist, who can prescribe more effective lotions.

Carpet Beetle Damage On Belongings Or Properties

They make materials made of wool, silk, linen, leather, and the like unusable with their strong and sharp mandibles. These materials have keratin, a fibrous protein from animals which the larvae beetle can consume and digest.  

The most common attacked items include blankets, sweaters, coats, scarves, pillows, rugs, and comforters. They mostly eat the underside of rugs and carpets, and along the edges of folds( hems, collars, and cuffs) of fabrics.  They may also eat items like natural hair brushes made of natural fiber and other human or animal debris that collects around the house.  

Their love for animal-based products is undeniable, and you will often see them in garment workshops, carpet shops, museums, and leather factories.  Carpets or other clothes that are not used for a long time are an ideal breeding ground for the tiny bugs, and they lay their eggs on such. Blankets and clothing in use are rarely attacked; the same applies to rugs and carpets that are routinely vacuumed. 

The pests also reproduce on animal carcasses, bird nests, dead insects such as lady beetles, stink bugs, cluster flies, and the like, which are linked with chimneys, basements, and attics. If the little insects have invaded your home, you will start seeing holes in clothes, curtains, leather, or other natural fabrics that are bigger than those created by moths. This is a good indicator of which pests have invaded your home. 

Carpet beetles are talented climbers and because of their small size, they can efficiently get access through cracks in the windows, doors, as well as openings around plumbing systems, vents, and chimneys.

Since they love to feed in dark and undisturbed areas, they often go unspotted for a long time until the infestation is full-blown. 

Besides damaging your clothes, adult carpet beetles are also pantry pests. They fly and crawl into pantry items where they lay eggs. Upon hatching, the larvae feed on your pantry items such as milled products, pet food, seeds, food crumbs, or other sources of foods rich in fiber.  Because of their diverse food sources, the pests can be found nearly anywhere in homes, making it a great challenge to eradicate them.

Carpet Beetles Can Cause Havoc On Your Pets

When carpets in your house are infested with Carpet beetles, it is easy to access the pets since they like lying down on them often. It is also possible for pets to come into contact with eggs or larvae while venturing outdoors. 

Coincidentally the carpet beetles are more active in the warmer months, which is also an ideal time for you to spend time outdoors with your dogs. They can hide on their furs and hairs, which leads to intense scratching. They can be a real nightmare for our furry, little friends! 

They feed on the dead skin and the fur that your pet sheds. Their hair contains keratin, a fibrous protein that is also present in hair, skin, and nails.

Does Your Pet Have Carpet Beetles? Here’s What To Look For.

  1. Constant itching.
  2. Patches without fur on the pet’s body, usually around the joints and legs.
  3. Distressed meowing in cats, especially if they are young.
  4. Presence of small, hairy worms on your pet’s fur. The larvae are mostly yellow or light brown.

How To Get Rid Of Carpet Beetles From Your Pet

Once you have established that the carpet beetles are the cause of distress for your pet, it is good to treat them as soon as possible.

The first thing you should do is ensure you are regularly vacuuming and cleaning your home to get rid of potential food sources for the carpet beetle larvae.

You can use diatomaceous earth, a natural powder that is 100% safe. It not only works for carpet beetles but also for other crawling insects such as fleas. 

Other methods you can use include using a pet shampoo, organic home pest control spray, or seeking help from a veterinarian.

Where Do Carpet Beetles In Your House Come From?

Carpet beetles are mostly attracted to flowers in your garden. They accidentally fly into your home while foraging from one flower to the other, looking for nectar. They also crawl through the windows, door frames, or throw openings near utility lines.

Carpet beetle
If these little guys sneak into your house they can cause issues if their larvae are left untreated.

Surprisingly, an infestation can start after accidentally bringing a beetle inside a fabric or a flower into your home. They can also get into your home through animals since they can hide in hairs and furs. They are more active in summer, and so infestations usually begin during this season in secluded places.

For a detailed guide on what to look out for with carpet beetle infestations check out this article, we have written on the topic, What Causes Carpet Beetles? What Should You Watch Out For?

How Can You Prevent Carpet Beetle Infestation?

Here are some of the things you can do to keep the insects at bay since it is more challenging to get rid of them once they are present.

  • Dry clean or run your clothing through a drier before storing them for a long duration. The process will get rid of any beetle eggs or larvae and also eliminate sweat odors.  
  • Store your clothes in airtight boxes and check them from time to time for carpet beetle infestation.
  • Clean your home and thoroughly vacuum upholstered furniture, carpets, rugs, and pantry shelves routinely as well as air vents and baseboards.
  • Check fabrics, plants, and flowers before bringing them into your house.
  • Put screens on your windows and doors or keep them closed. Be sure to cover vents that can also give the insects access.
  • Store your food in a freezer, Refrigerate, or in tightly sealed containers.
  • Use bright fabrics and keep your room brightly lit. It will keep the larvae away since the beetle larvae love to hide in dark places.
  • Remove spider webs, dead insects, and animal nests from your home since they are conducive breeding grounds for carpet beetles.  
  • Inspect the outside of your house and walls for holes, gaps, or cracks and fill them with caulk, liquid cement, or other sealants. The process will also prevent other insects from getting access to your home.
  • Use mothballs in your stored clothes as well as your closet.

The Wrap Up

Pests are never a good thing when they infest your home; carpet beetles are a terrible example.  Despite being non-poisonous, they still damage your household items. So, next time you spot carpet beetle infestation in your home, take immediate measures to protect your properties and loved ones from any disastrous outcome.

Getting rid of the tiny bug may be a challenging battle since the larvae are hard to notice. If you spot an adult, it is an indication that the larvae are somewhere feeding on your belongings.  Professional help is always a better option in clearing the menace.


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