Carpet Beetle Adult

2008 March 29

In February, I posted a picture of a larva of a carpet beetle. Well, now we have some pictures of an adult[1] that I found climbing up the side of the shower, to round out the set:


You might note that it has a reddish-orange stripe down the back where the wing covers come together. It is most likely a Buffalo Carpet Beetle[2], Anthrenus scrophulariae. I think it is interesting that the coloration is in scales on the surface of the wing covers, not embedded in the wing covers themselves. This is the same sort of thing we saw with the Larder Beetle in an earlier posting, except that the larder beetle was covered with short, colored hairs instead of scales.

There seems to be a bit of a rash of carpet beetles appearing on people’s blogs this month: there’s some pretty recent pictures at Insect Picture of the Day, and Wanderin’ Weeta[3]. These are both a different species from what I have here, they are probably Anthrenus verbasci, the “Varied Carpet Beetle”.

Here’s a picture of the underside of the beetle [4], for good measure


Something that Wanderin’ Weeta pointed out is that there are slight depressions on the beetle underside that the legs can socket into, making a nearly flat surface. I expect that this is so that, when the beetle is getting knocked around (as commonly happens to beetles), the legs can be pulled out of harm’s way rather than getting snapped off.

I’ve already talked about the lifestyle and eating habits of dermestids in earlier entries, so there’s no need to dwell on it now. I would like to mention again, though, that they are pretty much endemic in everybody’s houses. You may have lots, or you may have only a few, but unless you periodically purge and sterilize your house and everything in it, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve got ‘em. People talk about cockroaches being inevitable, but really, we don’t seem to have cockroaches at all this far north[5]. We certainly have carpet beetles, though.

[1] This is another “Extended Depth of Field” picture, with the back, sides, legs, and antennae all in pretty good focus. As I had hoped, EDF works a lot better for blocky opaque insects than for insects with long, transparent appendages.

[2] S_ says, “Does this mean it’s from Buffalo, or that it looks like a buffalo?” To which I say, “Beats me, maybe it likes to live in buffalo-skin rugs”. Could be any of those, I guess.

[3] Comparing their pictures to mine gives a good chance to see how much benefit I’m getting from the improvised macro lens made from a reversed SLR lens. David Brady (Insect Picture of the Day) uses a camera similar to mine (his is a Canon Powershot A640, I’m using an A95). I think that Wanderin’ Weeta is using a Canon A720 IS (another model in the same series, but with almost twice as much optical zoom as mine has). At any rate, we are probably all using cameras with broadly similar native optics to photograph essentially the same insect. The cameras with no supplementary macro lens, running only on their native macro mode, can get pictures that are good enough for identification of critters 2-3 mm long. But, there is a significant amount of blurring that is hazing out the details that are brought out using the macro lens. I’d say that the carpet beetles are about the smallest things that can be photographed decently with a stock consumer-grade camera, and a specialized macro lens gives pretty significant improvements at this size and smaller.

[4] This one isn’t EDF, unfortunately. The beetle was unhappy about being upside down, and insisted on waving his legs around vigorously the whole time. So, I couldn’t get the necessary series of photos at different focal depths.

[5] Seriously, it’s true. I’ve seen cockroaches in southerly areas[6], so I know what they look like, but I’ve never seen one here in the Keeweenaw. I’m told that they crop up from time to time in the dorms at the university when they ride in on people’s luggage, but they don’t last. We don’t seem to have house centipedes to any great extent, either – I remember one occasion where a friend found a house centipede that she killed by spraying with Chanel No. 5 (I think)[7], but that’s it.

[6] Once, when I was a graduate student, I went to Phoenix, AZ for a technical conference. I didn’t have much money, so instead of renting a room at one of the conference hotels, I just flew into the city blind, got to the conference center, and circled around on foot until I found a cheap place that had a room. The “Coronado” was $70 a week, and had one room available, so I took it (even though the manager looked at me as if I were insane). I noticed that there were little black objects all over the walls, in varying sizes. On closer inspection, they were moving, and on still closer inspection, they were cockroaches. Well, I had never really seen cockroaches before, so I was fascinated with them. And I figured, well, to get an otherwise reasonably spacious hotel room at one-seventh the then-going rate for a room in a roachless hotel, one just has to put up with something, so I shrugged and went to bed.

The next morning, I got up, and stepped into the bathroom – and felt something moving under my foot. I quickly lifted my foot, and saw this monster cockroach the size of the palm of my hand scurry off and hide behind the toilet. Whoa! After that, I was more careful to watch where I stepped. Later on, when I was walking around town, I saw another one of these giant roaches – it had been run over by a car, but was still perfectly recognizable.

Finally, when the conference was over, I called a taxi to pick me up and take me to the airport. The driver seemed apprehensive at first, until he found out that I was only a naive graduate student, and not some sort of criminal. It seems that the only people who normally went to that hotel were drug dealers and prostitutes, and I was lucky to get a taxi to come there to pick me up at all. Which explains the look the manager gave me when I checked in. Huh. Go figure.

[7] It was some sort of perfume, at any rate. I think it was that one, but I’m no judge of perfumes. Once, I was at a restaurant with some friends, and noticed a smell that I thought was Muskol Insect Repellent (it certainly smelled like DEET to me, anyway). This was the middle of the winter, an odd time to be wearing insect repellent, so I asked about it. Turns out it was Chanel #5[8]. The friend wearing it was not amused. Yes, I’m probably an unsophisticated boor with no taste for the finer things. I’ve learned to live with it.

[8] OK, now that’s just weird: In the Wikipedia article on Chanel No. 5, it says this:

“Chanel applied the French aesthetic theory that “ugly” placed next to “beautiful”, by contrast, makes the beautiful object appear more so. In this era almost all perfumes were floral and “pretty” – designed to enhance a woman’s beauty with more beauty. Instead of the scent of flowers, Coco wanted a perfume that “reflects my personality, something abstract and unique”. She believed that a perfume should serve to spotlight a woman’s natural beauty using contrast – i.e. the artificial perfume would make the woman’s natural beauty more evident.”

If I’m reading this right, this means that Chanel wanted it to smell kind of nasty and chemical-y! So, maybe it does smell like DEET!

8 Responses leave one →
  1. March 29, 2008

    Re: #7, I am reminded of the Far Side cartoon where a dog is picking up his date at the door. He says, “Wow, Ginger, you look great! And whatever you rolled in smells fantastic!”

    I said this to a human female once. She was not amused.

  2. March 29, 2008

    P.S. I, on the other hand, found it hilarious.

  3. March 29, 2008

    “I, on the other hand, found it hilarious.”

    So do I! Hey, maybe that’s a business opportunity – “roll-in” perfume (rather than “roll-on” deodorant) – some kind of a scent-impregnated mattress thing would probably work.

  4. March 31, 2008

    I discussed (and quoted from) this post on my blog tonight, here.

    David: I thought it was funny, too.

  5. Kim permalink
    August 17, 2008

    I have a rug ontop of another rug. When I removed the top one, there were all sorts of brown stains no more than 1/2″ in diameter as if someone had spilled coke or something (which was not the case). Is this from carpet beetles? Help me solve the mystery. If so, how do I get rid of – exterminate- them?

  6. August 17, 2008

    I’ve never seen staining like that from carpet beetles, they generally conserve moisture pretty well and don’t seem to leave stains. It sound more like some variety of fungus. I’d check to see if the stains smell musty. If you have periods of high humidity where you are, then it would be pretty easy for fungus to grow in between two carpets like that. This is getting way out of any expertise that I may have, but I think you might be able to clear it out by steam-cleaning the carpets, and then reducing the humidity (would probably need a good dehumidifier). Otherwise, you might need to remove the carpet and start over.

  7. Kim permalink
    August 17, 2008

    No humidity. Will try steam cleaning – thanks for your feedback, take care!

  8. Pam permalink
    June 13, 2009

    Carpet Beetles. Do They Bite?

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