Common Carpet Beetle

2023 March 26

This is a carpet beetle that Sam and Rosie found in the house on February 23, 2023. It wasn’t quite clear what they had found at first, because it is a little beetle (about the size of a pinhead or a sesame seed) and we couldn’t see the coloration until I had the magnified pictures.

This kind of takes me back, the last time I photographed one of these was way back in March of 2008. It is one of the first few beetles that I posted pictures of about 15 years ago, when I had only been doing this for about a year. The photos are coming out way better this time, though, what with my having considerably better equipment and some years of practice, so lets have another look.

It’s pretty definitely Anthrenus scrophulariae, which is variously known as the Common Carpet Beetle, Buffalo Carpet Beetle, or Marbled Carpet Beetle. The white and red-orange markings on the wing covers are highly distinctive. It is interesting to note that the colors are present as scales on the surface, and they can be rubbed off to leave the beetle just looking flat black. There is even a little spot up near where the wing covers attach where this has happened.

The head is relatively small compared to the rest of the body, and the scales continue over the shoulders and up onto the head.

The antennae end in little clubs, which increases their surface area so that they are more effective for detecting smells.

Flipping it over, the underside is white. While it had its legs out and waving around for these pictures, it could tuck them into little notches on its underside to protect them from damage if the beetle is getting knocked around.

We can even see here in this closeup that there are little sockets available for the antennae to nestle down into, as well.

Carpet beetles in general are known for getting into houses and infesting carpets and woolen goods. They eat hair (which obviously includes wool), bits of skin, leather, exoskeletons of other insects, and similar animal products that do not normally decompose easily or get eaten by anything else. Before humans came along, their original habitat appears to have been bird and animal nests, and corpses after the regular carrion feeders had stripped them down to bits of skin and bones.

This particular species likes the colder climates. Their larvae can grow up and mature in a house, but the adults then go outside to eat flower pollen and nectar before they can lay eggs. So while their larvae can infest things indoors, they don’t get as completely out of hand as insects that can complete their entire lifecycle inside a house, like cockroaches.

When I first posted about carpet beetles 15 years ago, I was completely gob-smacked by the sheer number of comments that I got on the posts. The carpet beetle larva post in particular got a whopping 644 comments on it (all from real people, not spam!). These were by and large not comments from people who appreciate insects. It seems that many people really, really hate finding carpet beetle larvae in their houses, particularly when they are getting into their stored clothing. There were a number of long, rambling comments by people who were apparently deeply traumatized by finding these, some to the point where they threw out everything they owned, or even moved out entirely.

But really, none of that is necessary. If you keep pet hair swept up, and store woolen clothing in dry, sealed containers, then carpet beetles will likely not be in your house in any great number, and you can relax.

2 Responses
  1. April 25, 2023

    Run away from these charming beasties? Never! They’re lovely.

    As for that thread, it was epic. 644 comments is insane! Did you read them all or did you finally give up on them?

  2. April 25, 2023

    Yes, I actually did read all of those as they came in. Which wasn’t so bad, seeing as how they came in over a period of many years.

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