Bug Blog

The Black Carpet Beetle

In The Arid Southwest The Black Carpet Beetle Is Particularly Problematic As A Pantry Pest, And They Disperse Throughout Homes Rapidly Where They Feed On A Variety Of Items

Not long ago, Peter Warren, an insect expert working for the Pima County Cooperative Extension and the University of Arizona, was approached by a resident who had been struggling to identify the species of insect that had been infesting his kitchen pantry for weeks. The insect was a tiny oval-shaped specimen with a black and orange polka dotted exterior, and it was somewhat similar to a ladybug in appearance, only tiny and black. Warren immediately identified the insect pest as a carpet beetle species, most likely a furniture carpet beetle, but the homeowner did not realize the seriousness of his discovery.

While adult carpet beetles are not significant pests, carpet beetle larvae are tremendously destructive and difficult to eliminate from infested homes. Spotting adult carpet beetles within a home is often the first indication that larvae have already established an infestation. Carpet beetle larvae are economically significant household pests due to their feeding habits. These pests damage a variety of indoor items, such as fabrics, furs, stored food items and decaying organic material, like dead skin. The three carpet beetle pest species that are commonly found in Arizona homes include varied carpet beetles, furniture carpet beetles and black carpet beetles.

Although carpet beetles are categorized as fabric pests, these insect pests also invade kitchens where they make their way into stored food items. In fact, in arid regions, the black carpet beetle is more problematic as a pest of stored food products than it is as a pest of fabric, but most infestation cases see the pests spread rapidly throughout structures where they damage a variety of items. For example carpet beetles often feed on pet food, and three years ago, another Arizona resident found a carpet beetle larva in her eye shadow.

A case of makeup may seem like an odd location for insect larvae to hide, but the makeup likely contained remnants of the woman’s dead skin and oil secretions, which carpet beetle larvae readily feed upon, and cosmetic products are often made with animal-based ingredients. It is also important to remember that carpet beetle larvae prefer to feed in dark enclosed indoor areas, so a makeup case that contains organic materials that the pests crave is an ideal harborage for them. Surprisingly, the closely related drugstore beetle, which also feeds on stored food items and organic materials, is commonly found feeding on makeup.

Have you ever found carpet beetle larvae in your home?