Along with clothes moths, carpet beetles are the most common insect pests to fabrics, as well as animal-sourced objects and attire. Unlike mature carpet beetle adults, only immature and larval carpet beetles damage such materials. Mature carpet beetles feast on outdoor pollen, but they may be more noticeable than their developing offspring near homes on account of their habit of flying into artificial light sources. While only developing carpet beetle offspring damage goods, it is the adult females that lay their eggs within cracks, fabrics and other concealed spaces around a home. Once carpet beetle offspring emerge from their eggs, they must feed on fabrics and materials made from animal fibers, such as wool, feathers, dead animals and even human hair in order to survive. Carpet beetle infestations can be hard to detect within a home, as not only are the immature insects exceedingly small in size, but they do not travel great distances; instead, immatures nest deeply within their food source in order to avoid light. However, owners of homes that are heavily infested with carpet beetle larvae may find their skin casings in materials such as upholstery, furniture cushions and baseboards. Massachusetts is home to several carpet beetle species, but these insects are not easy to identify during their larval stage and they can easily be mistaken for harmless insects.
The two most common carpet beetle species in much of the northeast are commonly known as the varied carpet beetle and the black carpet beetle. Other carpet beetle species found within homes in the Massachusetts include common carpet beetles, and less frequently, furniture carpet beetles. The oval or round-shaped varied carpet beetle adult is only around 3 mm in body length, and they can be recognized by the yellow, black and white design on their backs. Immatures of this species are shaped like a teardrop and have rows of brown hairs. Although varied carpet beetles are one of the two most common carpet beetle larval species to infest Massachusetts homes, these insects can go unnoticed for long periods indoors due to their small size and habit of nesting behind furniture where they feed on lint, pet hair, food crumbs, dead insects and other organic debris. The other common carpet beetle species in the state, black carpet beetles, are aptly named for their jet-black adult exterior, and they are larger in size than the varied carpet beetle. Immature pests of this species can grow up to 7 mm in body length and are carrot shaped with golden brown hairs. These pests also have hair at their rear, which looks like a tail of sorts. The common carpet beetle adult is particularly small, as they rarely grow above 4 mm in body size, but their larvae grow to be between 2 and 5 mm, and they have a mostly black hairy exterior with orange splotches. Furniture carpet beetles cannot survive the cold northern climate of Massachusetts, but they have been known to infest heated homes in the state during the colder months.
Have you ever found carpet beetles infesting your clothes?