Carpet beetles are insect pests of the dermestid family. Adults feed mainly on pollen and nectar, but the larvae feed on the animal protein keratin found in wool, other animal hair and feathers, and may also feed on stored grain products. These voracious larvae can ruin wool carpets and stored woolen clothing, and can also infest foodstuffs. All species are controlled by the same methods.

Bug on petals
credit: Dario Lo Presti/iStock/Getty Images
A carpet beetle crawls on a flower

Widespread Pest

The most widespread species of this pest is the black carpet beetle or Attagenus unicolor, which occurs throughout the United States. Adults are black, oval, shiny and about three-sixteenths of an inch long. The hairy brown larvae are carrot-shaped and are about a quarter-inch to a half-inch long. Other carpet beetle species occur regionally, characterized by white, light brown, yellow or orange markings on the oval adult bodies. In all species, the carrot-shaped brown larvae cause the damage. The black carpet beetle's life cycle takes six to 12 months. The life cycle of other species can take from six months to as long as three years.

Carpet Beetle Control

Good housekeeping is the best control for carpet beetles. Woolens and other fabrics of animal origin, such as leather and silk, should be dry-cleaned or laundered to kill larvae and adults before they go into storage. Thoroughly vacuum carpets. Pay particular attention to edges of area rugs, places where wall-to-wall carpeting adjoins baseboards, and carpeting underneath furniture. Apply insecticides, such as permethrin or chlorpyrifos sprays or diatomaceous earth dust, along carpet edges and underneath furniture.