We received a plea from a reader who has been having problems with teeny tiny worms hanging out near her cat’s dry cat food. Though she is not necessarily seeing them in the food, they definitely seem to congregate there. She also notes, interestingly, that they excrete a grey, dust-like substance. She has included this picture of the little animal on a piece of paper towel:
We can see in the picture that this is a segmented creature and looks more like a larva then a worm. It has distinctive coloring with the dark bands at the head and tail, and she’s finding them indoors near a food source. Given this information, we believe that this is an example of the common carpet beetle (Dermestids).
These little guys live all over our homes, eating everything from skin flakes to the natural fibers found in clothing and rugs. Some consider carpet beetles to be our friends, as a lot of the detritus they consume would get to be quite gross if allowed to accumulate unchecked.
While this may be true in many environments, in our homes most of us prefer not to have armies of carpet beetles cleaning up after us. The good news for our reader is that carpet beetles are pretty easy to get rid of. If you remove their food source, they will stop hanging out at your house.
To remove the food in this particular situation, we recommend that our reader store the cat’s dry food in an airtight container. Then, the next time she buys a new bag of food, put the food directly into the container before bringing it into the house.
Then, she should thoroughly clean the area where she has seen the larva. Wash any cloth surfaces in hot water and sweep and clean the area. After that, she should make sure that she keeps the food container closed, and removes any food or crumbs from the area daily.
Of course, this isn’t going to do her any good if the carpet beetle larvae just move to another part of the house, so she’s probably going to have to be quite diligent about dusting, sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming while waiting for her current brood to move on.
The good news is that neither the larva nor the full-grown beetles are harmful to humans, so they pose no danger, and she doesn’t have to be in a huge hurry to get rid of them.