Are you getting red bites in bed at night? Wondering if you have bed bugs? There's a good chance you actually have carpet beetles. Here's how to tell the difference, and what that difference means to your home.
Carpet beetles are just as invasive as bed bugs, but their purpose in your home is entirely different. Bed bugs require a blood meal to reproduce, meaning, they need to feed on you in order to thrive. Their bites leave red marks, often in sets of three (though not always). Carpet beetles do not need you at all, and their presence in your home is usually more related to happenstance. They do not bite, but you can have a dermatological reaction to contact with them that looks somewhat like bed bug bites. Carpet beetle irritation marks generally follow a line, and can indicate the path the insect took while walking over you in your sleep.
Carpet beetles are more interested in woolen materials, carpet, and other insects as a food source, and to them, you're just something warm they encounter at night when they're out foraging. There are two main stages of carpet beetle growth that you should be aware of: The larval stage and the adult stage. The larvae of carpet beetles are significantly larger than the adult form.
In larval form, they burrow through carpets and other wool-like materials. A cursory look at your carpet up close, especially near where the carpet meets the trim of your walls, can often turn up several of them. They are most likely to be found in areas infrequently vacuumed, beneath chairs and tables with tablecloths or in the carpet under beds. They have a thin coating of lance-like hairs that are irritants to human skin.
Often, individuals who have encountered carpet beetles, especially while they sleep in bed, will believe they have bed bugs, as the irritating marks left by contact with carpet beetle hairs can cause what look to be small bites. The most common reaction is rashing and itching, with bite-like marks that are similar to a bed-bug bite pattern. The medical name for this reaction is called Carpet Beetle Dermatitis. Sensitivity to the hairs is an allergic reaction, and is most often acquired after longstanding contact, meaning that the infestation can persist for some time before you begin having reactions to it.
There are many varieties of carpet beetles, but the Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) is the most common we encounter in the Pacific Northwest. It is oval in shape and quite small, most often being the size of a pin-head, though they can get as large as smaller ladybugs. The larvae are quite small and can be confused with silverfish, due to the longer hairs near the ends of the body.
They typically infest in the early Spring through late Fall, and the most common method of entry to your home is in feathers, seeds, lint, wool, or even dried pet food. They are also common in bee or wasp nests. While live beetles can be found somewhat easily by searching the carpet, trim, and the bedding where the infestation is suspected to be, often only casts will be found (casts are empty husks where the beetles have shed their shells during various stages of growth).
Indoor infestations can be quite tricky to manage. Carpenter Ants can nest in a variety of hollow areas. They can nest in decayed wood, within walls, in insulation near wood, behind cabinets and baseboards, or any other hollow area conducive to their foraging. Control of indoor infestations requires thorough inspection of the structure and a knowledge of its specific materials and layout.
If you suspect you have carpet beetles, we can help. Our carpet beetle treatment method is designed to be thorough, complete, and get you free of the infestation quickly. Our initial inspection and estimate is always free of charge.
If you suspect you may actually have bed bugs, have a look at our bed bug information page. As a quick reference, if you’ve found an insect and want to identify it, you can email an image to us here, or see below to give you a general comparison.
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