Can Carpet Beetles Live In Your Bed?


Regularly munching on every fabric available in your house, carpet beetles wear their bad rep as a badge, but will they get into bed with you.

Can carpet beetles live in your bed? Yes, it is possible. Carpet beetles lay their eggs where there is a good food source. Carpet beetle larvae love feeding on cotton, wool, and feathers found in beds. Larvae also eat dead skin and hair which very dirty linen has in abundance.

Most people confuse carpet beetles with bedbugs because they appear similar in shape and size at first glance.

Read on to learn the difference and to find out how to identify these fabric-hungry pests.

What Causes Carpet Beetles In Your House

Carpet beetles, also known as Dermestid beetles, invade your home to feed their larvae, as they munch on fabrics, skins, feathers, wool, and hair, among other things. An infestation of carpet beetles and their larvae may happen if you don’t clean your house regularly and if you have animal-based products that are not properly stored.

These beetles are prolific breeders, with the female capable of producing between 50-100 eggs in one cycle. While the adult carpet beetles live for only a few weeks, their larvae can live for up to 650 days before moving on to the pupal stage. 

During their larval stage, they can move around your house looking for food, which explains how they may end up on your bed as they are attracted to the oils and sweat that they find on your bedding.

Carpet beetle larvae on blanket
Carpet beetle larvae are attracted to blankets and rugs.

The adults fly into your house and lay their eggs on the furniture, clothing, carpets, and rugs. But they can also be introduced into your home when you buy a new carpet, furniture, or clothing that is already carrying the eggs.  

Carpet beetles emerge in the spring and summer months. However, these beetles can also adapt to cold temperatures and low humidity, allowing them to thrive in colder areas like Nebraska.

How Do You Identify Carpet Beetles In Your Space?

The top three signs that there is a presence of carpet beetles in your space include:

Damage To Fabrics And Clothing

Look out for bare patches, holes, or thinning areas on the fabric, leather (even leather books bindings), and upholstery. These are usually the first areas to show signs because they are a favorite for the larvae. The pests will typically devour the nap on the fabric’s surface, leaving the lower part exposed. But in some cases, they bore right through the nap and the thread or skin underneath it leaving holes as they feed.

The damage is usually small holes in the fabric concentrated in one place at first. As time progresses, the holes or patches become bigger and appear in all materials or skins. Unfortunately, the damage is usually irreparable.

Shed Skin And Fecal Matter

Watch out for skin shed by the larvae as they molt into the pupal stage. Sometimes contact with the shed skin can result in an allergic reaction and dermatitis. The shed skin is usually light brown, and there may be several pieces littering the place where the larvae were inhabiting. 

When they move around, they can be molting in the process leaving their shed skin all over the place.

Their fecal matter looks like black grains of salt. They are small but concentrated in one place where the larvae have been feeding from.

Flying Adult Carpet Beetles

This is perhaps the most obvious sign of an infestation. The adult carpet beetle is typically 4mm in length, which is large enough to see with your naked eye. They fly in and out of your house to mate outdoors and return indoors to lay the eggs.

Look out for them on your walls and windows, where they will appear as small moving dots. Don’t be surprised to find several dead beetles as their life span is very short.

There are many carpet beetle species but the most common to watch out for include:

Varied Carpet Beetle

An adult varied carpet beetle measures 3 – 5 mm, which is about 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch. They are rounded in shape with a patterned wing. Some species are just dark-colored with very minimal patterning on the wings.

This species is especially fond of dried foods like pet food, cookies, dry fruit, and grains, but fabrics and skins are frequently affected as well. As they feed on hair for its keratin, you can found them around areas where dog and cat hair tend to accumulate.

The Black Carpet Beetle

This is the most common and destructive carpet beetle because it is indiscriminate in the damage it causes. The black carpet beetle not only targets animal-based materials, but synthetic fabrics are also fair game. It is completely black or dark brown in color with an oval shape and also measures around 3-5mm.

The black carpet beetle are rather “cultured crawlers” as they love museum facilities where it can devour dead animal, insects, and plant species, including those on display. Because it occurs in all climates in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, it is quite a menace. Their feeding habits include mostly eating the nap of the wool and other fabrics but leaving the threads underneath intact.

When they make holes, they tend to create large, irregularly shaped ones.

Two Spot Carpet Beetle

As its name suggests, the two spot carpet beetle features two spots on the cover wings that stand out against its black body. It is a common beetle in the United Kingdom. It invades homes and offices and is a pest that occurs all throughout the year.

This species is quite the flier and can be seen around March to September. It measures 4.6 mm, and it also loves birds’ nests where they feed on the feathers and droppings. From the birds’ nests, they fly into the homes and also warehouses where they feed on grains and animal-based materials. These adults can live up to three months, which is much longer than other species.

If you have birds’ nests on your roof, you have to remove them to prevent these dermestid beetles from invading your space.

The Furniture Carpet Beetle

This is another destructive species that loves the home environment. You can identify it from its brown, yellow, and white markings in the back. It loves the upholstery in your house, so you can see it crawling on the furniture.

Measuring only 2 to 3.5mm, the furniture carpet beetle is small but it can lay more than 100 eggs at one cycle. This species feeds through the covering and padding of the furniture leaving irreparable holes. If you are a fan of taxidermy, this beetle will eat the horns and fur of your exhibits. It also eats through fabrics like silk, cotton, and even rayon.

The Brown Carpet Beetle

The brown carpet beetle is native to Africa but has found its way into Europe and North America. It is more of a tropical beetle, so the temperatures have to be right for it to thrive. It multiplies in temperatures of 24 degrees Celsius, but they cannot multiply outdoors in the winter.

These beetles grow to between 3 and 4 mm only, but they are active and excellent fliers. They are also prolific feeders eating fabrics and other animal-based products from the home to museum exhibits. It also loves to lay its eggs in birds’ nests and also in places inhabited by rats. 

So, if you have an infestation of rats or bird’s nest nearby, you may experience encounters with this beetle.

You can identify it from its completely brown body with a darker head, and part of the thorax also appears darker. Look out for it in your heating systems like the central heating because this species loves warmth.

The Common Carpet Beetle

This is the most commonly occurring carpet beetle species because it thrives in all environments. It can be found worldwide, but it occurs mostly in the Northern states of the United States. Its length is up to 3.8 mm, and it has an oval shape.

The common carpet beetle has a scaly exoskeleton with distinct white patches and a red to orange hue running down the middle of the back. The same white patches can be found on the underbelly of the beetle. Because it thrives in all climates, it can lay its eggs outdoors in beehives and animal nests or inside on your furniture.

When they feed on your carpet, they leave holes, but when they feed on other materials like grains and museum exhibits, they leave fine dust around their feeding area. You may not see them flying around, but these telltale signs mean your museum has the common carpet beetles.

How To Identify A Carpet Beetle Larvae

While carpet beetles cannot bite, their larvae, which move around quite a bit, may find their way into your bed, furniture, and clothing. When your skin comes into contact with the hard, spiky bristles on the body of the larvae, you may experience an allergic reaction. Some people mistake this for a bite from a bedbug or another bug.

Here is how to effectively identify an allergic reaction to carpet beetle larvae:

  • A rash that looks like a series of bites or welts
  • A burning sensation on the site of the rashes
  • A running nose
  • Watery, itchy, and red eyes
  • A break out of hives

Such a reaction occurs when the molted skin comes into contact with your airways, eyes, and skin. If you accidentally ingest the skin, you may also experience gastrointestinal problems. Most of these symptoms dissipate on their own.

At-risk Groups For Carpet Beetle Infestation

These beetles can fly into your house at any time. And while you cannot control them invading your home, you can identify at-risk groups that open you up to an infestation. They include:

  • Rug and carpet dealers
  • Taxidermists
  • Thrift shops
  • Furriers
  • Craft shops
  • Antique collectors
  • Art collectors

How To Prevent A Carpet Beetle Infestation

Prevention is better than treatment in this case. Ensure that your house has plenty of light flowing in because these beetles love dark places to hide in. Open your curtains during the day and let the light flow in. And in the evening, ensure that the house is well lit.

Cleaning food stains and crumbs should be immediate to avoid providing food that attracts the beetles.

Finally, when you buy from any of these suppliers, make sure that you thoroughly inspect the purchase for any telltale signs of carpet beetles. Look for eggs, larvae, pupae, and adult beetles hiding within. Some of the shops where you purchase from, like taxidermists, may offer a complimentary or paid service of cleaning the product before taking it home.

But if this service is not available, take the item to professionals for thorough cleaning. Some of the items can be cleaned and treated from home. Thoroughly wash new clothes and rugs and disinfect them in the process.

If you are not using the animal-based products immediately, consider placing them in a walk-in, chest, or household freezer for at least 72 hours. That will effectively kill the carpet beetles at all life stages. Wrap the items in plastic to prevent damage from moisture.

In case you already have an infestation, the best option is to call on professionals. That is because of the following three reasons:

They Are Notoriously Challenging To Find

You may spot a flying beetle here and there or a larva slowly moving in search of food, but generally, carpet beetles are hidden, making it difficult to identify their habitat. But professionals know where to look and how to identify them.

The Infestation May Be More Extensive Than You Think

You may not know how extensive the infestation is, but the professionals can tell you during the inspection. They know what to look for to determine the scale of infestation they are dealing with.

They Have The Right Tools And Products

While carpet beetle glue traps and sprayers are available in retail shops, you do not have the equipment to look through the entire house. For example, if your infestation is within heating vents, within upholstered furniture, and floorboards or walls, you cannot reach these places without tearing your entire house apart.

The professionals are well equipped and will ultimately cause less damage to your space. They may even reach the challenging spaces without damaging anything.

The Wrap Up

Contrary to popular belief storing your clothes, furs, skin, and other items in cedar chests or closets with cedar oil is not an effective deterrent against carpet beetles. The seals are not effective in keeping out these pests, and the repellant qualities of cedar oil are not lethal.

To ensure you do not end up with carpet beetle and their larvae in your house or bed, practice good hygiene and sanitation of your space. But, remember, they cannot live in your bed or bite you. However, they can damage your clothes and furniture, rendering them useless. Keep an eye on the spring and summer months to prevent them from flying into your house. And if you notice a bare patch, it doesn’t hurt to get a consultation from professional pest control experts.

Sources

https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/010FabPest.pdf

https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/ef601

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/fabric/furniture_carpet_beetle.htm

https://www.pestium.uk/most-common-house-bugs/brown-carpet-beetle/

https://www.healthline.com/health/do-carpet-beetles-bite#carpet-beetle-allergy

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/take-part/identify-nature/pest-species/id-sheet-attagenus-pellio-two-spot-carpet-beetle-fur-beetle.pdf

https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/insects/carpet-beetles-5-549/

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/fabric/black_carpet_beetle.htm

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