Carpet Beetle Larva

2008 February 2

There are no uninteresting insects, only insects that are insufficiently magnified

S_ found this little larva while cleaning out a cupboard. It was in the back of the shelf, happily chowing down on a dead ant.

dermestidlarvadorsallowmag.jpg

So far, it just looks like your typical little thing with lots of legs. Let’s zoom in a bit:

dermestidlarvadorsalannot.jpg

Ah, that’s better. Now we can see that it doesn’t actually have lots of legs, what it does have is a lot of bristles that stick almost straight out, or maybe angled a bit towards the head. There are also two tufts of bristles on the tail.

dermestidlarvaventral.jpg

On the underside, we can see the actual legs, which aren’t really a lot longer than the bristles. It also has bristles on the bottom of the abdomen that give it an amusing, needs-a-shave sort of look. Note that, unlike butterfly and moth caterpillars, it does not have prolegs on the abdomen (beetle larvae do not have prolegs, only the six true legs). We can see the legs a bit better in the next picture, where it is trying to flip itself over:

dermestidlarvaside.jpg

At first, I thought that this was a larva of a larder beetle, like this one I posted a few months ago. But, looking at it more closely (particularly the tufts of bristles on the abdomen), I think its actually a carpet beetle, probably genus Anthrenus . I’ve been finding these Buffalo Carpet Beetles around the house, and so there is a good chance that this larva would have grown up to be one of them. Larder beetles and carpet beetles are all types of dermestid beetles, but while the larder beetle is more into stored foodstuffs, the carpet beetles are rather keen on animal proteins that are normally considered indigestible (hair, wool, feathers, skin, exoskeletons of other insects, that sort of thing).

Carpet beetles are evidently one of those species from arid or semi-arid regions that have moved into the house environment. They are adapted to a lack of water, and so can manage in spite of the dryness of the average house. Their original environment was apparently bird and mammal nests, where they ate the bits of debris that the inhabitants shed (and, in cases where the inhabitants died, ate what was left of their mummified corpses after the flies and carrion beetles were done with them. Once the dermestid beetles finish, they leave nothing behind but the polished bones of the animals’ dry, articulated skeletons)[1]. Basically, these beetles are still living in mammal nests, it’s just that these nests are now our houses instead of a hole in the ground with, say, a badger living in it.

As I mentioned in the larder beetle entry, the diet of dermestid beetles makes them real murder on things like insect collections, taxidermy, wool products, natural-fiber carpets, and museum specimens. They are also likely to be around regardless of how clean you keep your house. Even if the carpets are synthetic fibers, there are always bits of dead skin and hair, miscellaneous organic dirt, and the remains of insects that got in, couldn’t hack the indoors environment, and died. They’re in overlooked corners, under beds, in carpets, you name it. I even found one crawling across the ceiling in a very new house downstate which has only two people living in it and no pets, and is kept scrupulously clean. Seek and ye shall find, and all that. They are there, somewhere. Count on it.

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[1] A while back, we were doing some work on the walls in the house, and found a perfect mouse skeleton. Not a trace of hair, flesh, or skin, just a complete and undamaged skeleton still posed in its original owner’s final death throes. The dermestid beetles had obviously been at it.

623 Responses leave one →
  1. lisa permalink
    April 11, 2013

    It feels like I’m so alone in my war with these things and then I discovered the comments in this blog and realised I’m not the only one freaking out about the pesky critters. What frustrates me the most is that I get my house spotless and then a moment later a larva or adult will just appear out of thin air. It truly makes me feel like a failure as my methods obviously weren’t good enough. I discovered them about 5 or 6 years ago in the kitchen but there was a source for that infestation and they dissapeared after we eliminated the source which was cereal behind the fridge. Now they’re back in abundance but there is no obvious source and its driving me nuts. I always see them. I’m always thinking of them. Everytime I see q black speck…it is mostly always them. No matter how hard I try to forget about them they always haunt me. I guess I’m severely anxious because not only have I had problems with CB but also biscuit beetles, moths, rats, flies and other annoying critters because I live in poorly ventilated and insulated apartment which the landlords do nothing about therefore I end up paying huge sums for pest treatment. I feel like my life is all about pests and I can’t escape.

  2. Amanda permalink
    May 1, 2013

    Well it was inevitable and I always knew it, here I am back again. And the timing is perfect because it’s just as I was getting close to having a life. Just about fooling myself thinking I was in the clear. Just about feeling comfortable accepting rides from people and not feeling guilty that sitting in their car would probably spread this nuisance on to them and ruin their lives. Just about to get out and make some new friends. So of course I come home two nights ago to find a beetle crawling around on the carpet. And of course it would be a mere foot from the area I have worked my hardest to keep my brand new things confined to to keep them as beetle-free as possible. It hasn’t been easy living like this but it’s the only way I could keep myself semi-sane when going out to have a good time. Everything is brand new and kept in bags. Finding anything is a ridiculous process but worth it if it allows me the freedom to ride in someone’s car without worrying that the clothes I’m wearing will transmit the beetles to them. I tried to let myself live in the denial mom likes to live in. Her logic of “just ignore them and hope they’ll go away” doesn’t work as I’ve not gone a day without looking at every piece of lint. I have toenail fungus that has wrecked two of my nails because I simply cannot walk around in the house barefoot so straight out of the shower my feet go into my slippers. I shower twice a day in an effort to reduce the spread from work to home to the gym. My sleeping partner however walks bare foot and is no doubt tracking the beetles into our bed despite my best efforts. When something falls on the floor I consider it lost for good.
    I am so depressed and distraught at seeing this beetle after trying my best to just go about my life and pretending they don’t exist (but never going a day not thinking about them) I had a panic attack and then started eating everything in sight (I’ve lost a lot of weight over the past year but this is just the thing to make me go off the rails.) I can’t live like this. If I saw that one by chance Lord knows how many there would be if I looked. I can’t bring myself to look anymore. I can’t live like this. My mother says I’m overreacting. I say she doesn’t know what she’s dealing with. It’s been FIVE YEARS OF THIS! I’ve thrown out so much stuff. They’ve followed me through 4 apartments.

    I see these bags and think “oh maybe that would help.” http://www.ziploc.ca/en/products/SpaceBag/ziploc-brand-space-bag-regular-bag.aspx But of course not because the idiot that made them doesn’t realize that sucking the air out with the vacuum would surely transmit the frigging things right into the bag. It’s as if no one else in the world knows these things exist at all! I’m envious of those people. I miss walking barefoot in my home. This is no way to live. I’m a prisoner in my apartment again. Afraid to go out and socialize because I feel like I’m dirty and have this shameful secret, but I’m also afraid to stay home for fear of what I may find.

  3. Amanda permalink
    May 31, 2013

    Well I’m moving…again. This time very spur of the moment so I don’t have time to do much other than grab my stuff and go. It’s freaking me out that I won’t have time to take everything to the laundromat or anything first but realistically has that stopped them before? My new boyfriend has a van and didn’t understand why I was adament I didn’t want him helping me move so I had to do the inevitable: I told him my dark dirty secret. I feel like he thinks I’m crazy now. He must. But he says it’s no big deal. He started Googling about them on his phone in the restaurant we were in and didn’t seem worried. I told him that’s because he doesn’t understand what he’s getting into. I CAN’T pass these on to him. I told him I would rather be telling him I have AIDS or something because that’s how I feel. These things have ruined my life. They’re all I think about when someone offers me a car ride or anything. The possibility of giving them to others makes me feel terrible. At least with AIDS I would know how to not pass it on to someone. These things seem to have a mind of their own and defy the logic of what should kill them.
    I’ll be living in a situation where all my stuff is in one room so my computer which I haven’t touched since the really buggy place and all of my clothes as well as my bed will be in the same room. This idea freaks me out beyond belief. And on top of everything mother made me help her put in the air conditioner last night which involved standing in the area here where I was seeing all the carpet beetles (when I had time to look.) It’s an area I have effectively stayed away from for almost a year and now the day before I have to try to move and not take these things with me I’m standing in the exact spot of my fear. I went to the washroom afterward sobbing and washing my hands over and over. He can never see me like this but I know the first beetle I see at the new place our relationship will be over. Meanwhile she again tells me just to get over it and that I’m crazy. I’ve bought as much new stuff as I can afford. Thrown out as much as I can, again. And all my efforts are probably futile anyway but this night of standing in that spot, having to touch the windowsill and curtain, could throw it all out the window before it even starts. I’m sick of living out of bags and boxes. I’m telling myself at the new place I will start living like a normal person and not wear slippers every moment I’m in the house. I know deep down that won’t happen.

  4. lisa permalink
    May 31, 2013

    Amanda, would it be possible to talk to you via email or something? I’ve never found anyone who feels the same way as I do on this topic. I feel alone in my battle with this and I’ve had my family and others question my intelligence and mental state when I don’t understand how it isn’t a problem when I deal with these blighters on a daily basis.

  5. Annie permalink
    June 2, 2013

    Hi Amanda and everyone. Its been a year and 1/2 since I moved from the infested apartment. The rug was pulled in this one and laminate flooring over cork installed. Feb and march i found 15 beetles ( 2012) and with all my cleaning late nite 2-4am I found after spraying with Gentrol 2 live larvae. then had cockroaches.
    I just got a blister about a week ago. I can no longer clean or search for them. the 2 1/2 years of cleaning up larvae, 7 years dealing with ants that turned out to be nested under my bedroom rug I can barely walk. Part of this is scoliosis which I never knew I had though I complained enough about leg length that i would think one of the foot doctors or my MD would have thought of it.
    I live with everything in my refrigerator or freezer including the plastic bags for sandwiches and clothes. i thought i was clear here. I had found 15 beetles but treated several months with Gentrol and Vet Kem Premise spray.
    After the blister a week or so ago. I just got exhausted, fall asleep the minute I lay down to do my exercises, or even standing up. dddddddddddddddddddddddddddddas;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
    as you can see….
    ugh. I just want to say do the best you can I can deal with 2 live larvae The gentrol is very good stuff
    I still try not to get into explanations of why I do not have a air purifier or microwave etc.

    I believe I am trying to avoid dealing with them here or I am so stressed my adrenal gland is shot on top of not being able to walk right anymore
    Your not alone , your not crazy. it just is we know about them.
    Love , light and healing to everyonellll

  6. Amanda permalink
    June 3, 2013

    Lisa
    Normally I would say yes, and I hate to leave you feeling like you’ve just found help or at least someone who understands but right now I’m in the “new place living in denial” phase of this whole thing. I caved and let all my stuff go into my boyfriend’s van so if he’s gonna get them he’s got them now. I’ve taken everything out of the bags and put it in the new dressers and closet as normal as I can. I’m walking around this place barefoot. I feel free. Like I can breathe. I know the bugs followed me. They always do. But you know what? Right now I’m thinking it’s not the end of the world. Realistically they’re probably in everyone’s house and we’re the only ones who pay attention this is according to my man. So of course I’m trying not to have a panic attack every second when I think of the horror that will hit me when I see the first one in the new place. That terrible heartbroken feeling that always happens when my new carefree place starts to turn into my new prison. For now I’m going to live in denial for a bit and I refuse to give these little buggers one more second of my time…although we all know it’s in the back of my mind still.

  7. tima permalink
    June 8, 2013

    i wld love to talk to anyone who is living this nightmare
    i’ve spent thousands on prducts, thrown out clothes, lost friendships, almost lost my job
    thes ethings are unberable and following me evrywhere
    i also feel alone, misundersttod ad evryone around me thinks delusional
    any insights/guidance.. wld b appreciated

  8. Victoria permalink
    July 6, 2013

    Okay I have read every single comment on here and that was enough to scare me. I just recently started noticing these awful critters everywhere around the house. My parents don’t seem to care even when I bombard them with all of this information about carpet beetles and how much damage they can cause. Our house is gigantic and cluttered and I am going crazy just thinking about cleaning it all by myself. I’m so stressed. I can’t sleep,i can’t eat, I can’t honestly cope with this. Nor have I brought myself to thinking I can live out of bins. I just don’t want to tackle this especially because I have no help and everyone thinks I’m psychotic for caring about these things. It’s too much work and money that as a student, I do not have. I havent even started my fight yet. Oh God help me.

  9. July 8, 2013

    Victoria:
    Please don’t panic. There are a certain level of insects that are going to be present in everyone’s houses regardless of what they do, and most importantly, they really aren’t going to affect you. These are just one of them. They may make the occasional hole in certain types of fabrics, but overall it just isn’t worth your peace of mind to stress out over them.

    I’d recommend taking a deep breath, relaxing, and remembering that these have been in practically everybody’s house for all of history, and they haven’t really injured us yet.

  10. Amanda permalink
    August 2, 2013

    Here I am again. Staying up all night doing laundry because I’m moving again and have to do everything in my power to try to not bring any extra roommates with me. This time I’m moving after 2 months because of the landlords. I haven’t seen anything in my time here but again it’s only been 2 months so I would be crazy to let myself believe the beetles didn’t come with me when I moved last time. 4 more loads to go. Washing everything in hot water and drying on hottest. I don’t care if it says cold wash hang to dry. I would rather wreck my clothes than chance it.

  11. Amanda permalink
    August 4, 2013

    Oh God! I haven’t even unpacked. I’ve been in the new place all of 24 hours and I saw a bug in her kitchen. I’ve been working so hard to be free of them and now they’re probably here! :( My new roommate was cleaning the cupboards out and had stuff from 2008! And all the open pasta. I was left alone in the kitchen and saw a little beetle crawl across the counter. I’m sitting in my room so freaked out. I can’t take dealing with this again on top of everything else. Now all my food is in that kitchen in the cupboard right above where I saw the bug.

  12. August 7, 2013

    What can I do if I’ve seen larval skins in a mattress? Does that mean they are still living inside there? I saw one crawling up the wall next to my bed today but I keep checking my mattress everyday and don’t see anymore. I don’t have carpet in this room. There are gaps between the wooden floor and the skirting board though, however i try to get in there with a strong disinfectant each day and I even put borax powder there. I feel uneasy about sleeping on my bed but I can’t afford a new bed. Please help me :(

  13. August 7, 2013

    & i will talk to anyone going through this because i want to know what methods you have tried so far/what has helped ease the stress/anxiety and what has reduced their numbers if any! How do you store your fabrics? please get back to me.

  14. China permalink
    October 15, 2013

    OMG!
    I found some larva on the floor (i don’t have carpet)
    For a while now i live at my boyfriend’s house, and my house is just standing there withe all my stuff. I was planning to move to his house some time this winter.
    After the i found the larva i wanted to get a jacket i havent worn in a long time, but i was cold.
    And thene i found holles in my jackets whit some moth, but also some larva.
    So i looked up things ik could do against moth.
    Then i found pictuers of this little hairy larva (the one i have seen) and it is saiying carpet beatle.
    And now i’m reading al this……
    I’m not going to live out of plastic bags, that is insane!
    If i leave the heating off and move later in spring time, will they die?

    (sorry for any spelling and grammar mistakes this is not my first languase)

  15. Susan permalink
    February 2, 2014

    CB’s have ruined my life, my family relationships, almost cost me a job, and have messed with my sanity. I have been living this nightmare for 2 years next month. I am still not sure when or where the original beetles came from. For some reason this bothers me, as if things would be easier if I knew. What I do know is that my son’s house, my daughter’s house, my friend’s house, and my house were infected. No one seems terribly worried about them except me, so now I don’t allow them to visit my new home. How horrible is that? I have gone to extreme measures and would be willing to share what I did ( haven’t seen any in 6 months), but I live in fear of bringing them back from my daughter’s house where I keep her son each day. I have a routine when I return home. I do not know how I lived 56 years and never heard of these monsters before, and for the life of me, I can’t find anyone else who ever heard of them. Sometimes I walk around envious of strangers knowing they don’t have this problem at their house. Let me begin by saying that PEVA plastic bags, diatomaceous earth, and vacuuming are the extreme measures in which you have to engage. Even after they are gone, there is the constant fear that destroys any hope of living sanely again.
    This sounds so overdramatic to anyone who has never had CB’s, for those of you who have shared your stories, you probably share this fear.

  16. Lynn permalink
    March 1, 2014

    Hi,
    I’m new to this site but from what I’ve read, it’s nice to know that I’m not insane or alone in this battle. I’ve been dealing with unknown “bites” on my upper body for over 7 months…as is my husband, I get them more often and worse since I’m home all day.
    It all started in July 2013, we were waking up with what appeared to be bites on our back, sides, arms, neck, stomach and buttocks. I had 2 PC companies come out and they said I didn’t have bedbugs and weren’t sure what all our bites were from and without a proper ID they wouldn’t treat our home.
    Fast forward to Jan. 2014. Had another pest control guy out who did a very thorough inspection and found many carpet beetles and their larvae in almost every room of the house….even the shed exoskeletons behind pic. frames. He confirmed that they were the Varied carpet beetle. He must have been one of the honest PCO’s since he said I could take care of the problem by just vacuuming and eliminating clutter in drawers and closets…(I have a beautiful home and didn’t think I had too much clutter, but I do have a lot of linens, towels, etc. )
    I had been to Dr’s, Dermotologists and even spoke to 3 entomologist prior to finding this info. out about carpet beetles and NONE of them knew what my so called bites were from and one even thought I needed a shrink!! Well, being that my husband and I are covered daily with fresh “bites” and scars from last summer, the only one that understood was the Dermo. and gave us cortisone cream to use for 2 weeks for the intense itching these cause.
    Okay, so I found out that there is something called carpet beetle larvae dermatitis, it is caused not by anything crawling on us, but the hairs from the larvae which are on the carpets and in stored clothing (where they nest) and they are then basically “impaled” into our clothing and can remain on our clothes even through the wash/dryer. The marks resemble those from a spider or bed bug bite but they’re actually from the hairs of these things from an allergic reaction.
    I’m not sure if I can do all the cleaning etc. on my own as I’ve been stressed like all of you over this….so, next week I’ll start throwing away items I don’t wear and dry clean all my linens then store them in space bags until I have the entire house treated.
    For those of you who aren’t allergic to the hairs from these, I’ll tell you what it’s like. As I walk in my home, even on my tiled kitchen floor, it feels like little pin pricks on your skin….starts on the legs (although I’ve never gotten marks on my legs) and then the marks and rash start on the stomach, groin, back and back of my neck. One day I put on a freshly hot washed and dried sweat shirt and went food shopping and literally had to leave my cart and run out of the store from all the extreme itching on my upper back….when I got home, I ripped it off, threw it in the hot wash and checked my back, sure enough I had over 15 “bites” on me. I honest thought I had some type of mite all this time until I found out about this beetle larvae….right before I started this post I found 7 in my kitchen, some larvae were dead in my cupboard and 2 beetles were walking up my wall…one was about to take off but I captured it on some tape and put it with the rest of what I’ve collected the past 2 days in a black folder for review for whoever I have come and treat.
    I hope we all find peace and can get back to the real world one day soon. I’ve walked around like a zombie for way too long and I just want my life back. Hopefully we all will.

  17. March 1, 2014

    I will talk to anyone battling this
    ever since I discovered these I seem to notice a lot more bugs. You’d be surprised just how many things infest the home. It gives you a heightened awareness. Every little speck causes me to freak out. The creepiesr part is the crunching of the adult beetles and how they just appear on floors, walls, in cupboards out of nowhere when you’ve just cleaned it. We had our rooms fumigated last year which kept it down for a while but they just keep on coming back its like they are immune to everything. I even put diatomaceous earth in crevices, behind wardrobes , cupboards, beside perimeters of external doors ECT yet they come back. I hoover once weekly, carpet sweep with a sweeper, clean walls, wooden floors, skirtings, inside of door frames, all furniture at least once weekly. I clean with essential oils(a combination of lavender, peppermint, tea tree, citronella, orange, cedarwood) and bleach and vinegar for floors. I’ve gone insane and all I think about is bugs crawling on me and my things. Worst fear is my bed. I’ve seen them on other matresses and sofas ECT but not my new bed yet….. Once you notice CBs you’ll probably notice a ton of other minute insects too and it just makes you paranoid beyond belief. Everyone thinks im delusional but I just dont want my things infested :|

  18. Susan permalink
    March 15, 2014

    I have had carpet beetles for almost three years. I have never had a bite like you are describing. Is it possible you have mites and also carpet beetles and you are thinking the bites are from the CB’s?
    Have you tried diatomaceous earth? how often do you vacuum? Have you removed food sources that help CBs survive like clothes, towels?
    You may need to commit to a year or so living in plastic, vacuuming daily, and removing food sources. Also, check your car, you may be reinfecting your house from your car each day.

  19. Lynn permalink
    March 16, 2014

    This week we removed all our carpeting and used DE and I haven’t seen one….where as prior to treating, I was killing about 20 a week. I found the root of the problem was in a closet where I had forgotten about a lambs wool coat from my grandmother that was covered with them…I believe if there are only a few, then you won’t have a reaction, but with what we saw, found and threw out, this was a major problem.
    Since about 6 days ago, after removing things, I have no pin pricking sensation, no more skin lesions and I’m confident we’re on our way to eliminating these things. We still have the upstairs to tackle within the next week until our new flooring comes in….I’ll keep you posted.

  20. Dawn permalink
    March 17, 2014

    I’m so glad I found this page! I literally thought I was going mad with these things! As you all know it seems like nobody understands how bad the situation is, but I practically cry when I see these things. I’m just so exhausted from cleaning and just the emotional exhaustion is overwhelming. I moved into my new apartment in Septemeber 2013 and realized I had these CB’s about a month later. My apartment manager has had the pest control come out and spray three times now and they will be back again this Wednesday. I have vacuumed like a crazy person for the last six months. I’ve used borax and put everything I haven’t thrown out into those giant ziploc bags. Nothing really seems to help though. I found out today (yes all today) that they have spread to my office, to another apartment in my complex, and also a friend of mine texted and said she has seen a few at her house now. I feel nauseous from the anxiety these things cause… There seems to be no rhyme or reason to these bugs! It seems like everything I’ve read about how they act/where I should find them completely contradicts how these CB’s actually act. With all this abnormally warm winter weather here in Calofornia it seems like their life cycles are on warp speed.

  21. March 18, 2014

    Interesting information regarding CB’s.

  22. Susan permalink
    March 27, 2014

    Dawn, I completely understand your frustration. Your situation is very similar to mine. CB’s can be transmitted from house to house on clothing, shoes, bags, etc. My friend and several family members now have them as well. I am not positive from which house they originate. I just seem to be the only one concerned about them.

    Diatomaceous Earth will work, but not overnight. I live in a plastic world where vacuuming is my daily duty. :)

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