“What larva is this?” asks this reader in her submission regarding the brown-striped organism pictured below, which seems to be digging into a piece of food. “It looks similar to a carpet beetle larva, but that doesn’t make sense. I’m in the Southwest United States, and carpet beetles are in Europe, right?” Now, there are a few things to unpack here from our reader’s submission, and we will start with her first question: what larva is this indeed? Well, we think she is right in comparing it to a carpet beetle larva, as it really does resemble one, and that is exactly what we think it is.
Now, our reader was also correct in saying that this does not make much sense, given the preferred diet of carpet beetle larvae. As their name suggests, carpet beetle larvae tend to munch on the fibers of carpets, but they also feed on other textiles, specifically those that contain organic-based materials such as cotton, wool, or silk. That said, it is not unheard of for carpet beetle larvae to also eat grainy foods, such as oats and cereals, which it looks like this piece of food contains. What we will say is that it is more common for the adult beetle to feed on human food products, but it is not impossible to find their larvae here too.
Moving on, when it comes to our reader’s second question, about whether or not carpet beetle larvae are found in Europe, we assume she is asking if they are only found in Europe, and the short answer is ‘no’. Carpet beetle larvae are found all over the world, the United States included. That is one of the reasons we get so many submissions about them, as anyone can find them, anywhere: our reader’s picture proves that! These creatures are not dangerous, but we would not recommend consuming them, as they can carry and transmit disease. We suggest that our reader actually throw out this entire piece of food, and that she throw it out in a garbage can outside her home.
To conclude, the organism our reader found in her food is a carpet beetle larva. This critter must have been desperate for food and so went for this snack, though it is also possible that a carpet beetle egg ended up on this piece of food by some chance. We hope this article clears things up, and we wish our reader the very best!
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