“Can you help me identify these insects?” asks Jen in East Yorkshire, UK about the little, black and white-striped bug pictured below. “We have been finding these larvae in our bed for several weeks. Are they carpet beetles? Is it possible these might be falling from the ceiling / wood beams, as the way they have turned up makes us think this is a possibility? Thanks.” To start with, we think Jen is right in identifying these as carpet beetles, though we want to point out that, in this case, they are the larvae of the carpet beetle. We can tell based on the shape of the body, as well as the black and white stripes.
Because of the larva’s black and white coloration, we would say that this is most likely a black carpet beetle larva, which is a specific species of carpet beetle that is, unfortunately for Jen, even more destructive than a typical carpet beetle larva. This is because, while the common carpet beetle larva feeds exclusively on textile items made from organic materials such as cotton and wool, black carpet beetle larvae do not discriminate: they will eat materials made even from synthetic materials. They can be found in wardrobes, dressers, closets, underneath and behind furniture, and even in the bathroom on towels and bathmats: anywhere there are fabrics involved. That said, they will even eat loose hair and fur, so no spot is safe from them. As such, we recommend that Jen vacuum her entire home and launder any potentially-infested items, particularly those around the spot where the larvae were found.
We also want to address Jen’s question regarding the larvae falling from the wooden beams on her ceiling. It is not impossible that this is where the larvae are coming from, though we find it unlikely given that they are carpet beetle larvae. It is more likely that an adult beetle laid eggs on a source of food (such as a carpet, bed, or piece of clothing), and that the larvae hatched inside the home. In this case, that was probably on Jen’s bed, where she found the larvae. The adult beetle would have no reason to lay the eggs up in the beams, unless there was an abandoned bird nest up there with loose feathers to munch on.
The best way to prevent carpet beetle infestations is to store unused clothes and other textile items in sealed containers or vacuum-sealed bags. Likewise, to prevent bugs from entering one’s home in general, it can help to ensure that one’s window screens are intact and that screens are installed in one’s vents. Bugs can also enter through open doors or windows, or be dragged in on one’s clothing or shoes, and that cannot really be helped, especially during the summer time.
To conclude, we agree with Jen that these are carpet beetle larvae. Unfortunately, since they are black carpet beetle larvae, they will prove to be even more of a nuisance than the common carpet beetle larva. We hope nonetheless that she has caught the infestation before it gets out of hand and that she can eliminate it as soon as possible. We wish Jen the very best!
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