We received an email a while back from a reader who is finding brown worms under her couch. The reader described the worms as brown and hard, and also mentioned that they have many legs. The reader asked several questions, but she was primarily concerned with determining what the worms are (hint: they aren’t worms, but larvae), and she was also keen to get rid of them. She was so alarmed by the presence of the brown, hard creatures under her couch, in fact, that she is considering getting new carpet and furniture, and ended her email with an emphatic cry for help. So, what are the brown worms (or actually larvae) under the furniture, and how can she get rid of them?
First, the reader sent us a picture of the creature she found:
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The photo was an extreme close-up and thus was slightly blurry, but we re-sized it a bit to bring it into better focus. In any case, it shows what our reader is dealing with pretty clearly, and thus we are able to confidently say she found carpet beetle larvae. Indeed, essentially everything she wrote is consistent with this suggestion, as carpet beetle larvae are brown, hard, and often found under furniture. We have also written about carpet beetle larvae dozens of times, so we have a greater than usual familiarity with these creatures; basically, we know a carpet beetle question when we see one. This is not to say that we are absolutely certain she found carpet beetle larvae – complete certainty is a luxury unknown in the worm- and larvae-identification business – but it seems likely she found them. The only thing that compromises this suggestion is that she said the creature has “many legs,” and carpet beetle larvae can have only six (they obviously grow into carpet beetles, which, being insects, have only six legs), but the larvae have lots of hairs on them, and to the untrained eye the hairs can look like legs. Or perhaps our reader simply regards six legs as “many,” and in which case nothing in her description calls into question the suggestion that she found carpet beetle larvae.
We have actually written about getting rid of carpet beetle larvae under furniture before, so we won’t exhaustively treat the topic again. Here we will only note that getting rid of the creatures is basically a matter of cleaning (especially vacuuming), and this process can be a bit cumbersome because you have to make sure to cover places that are hard to clean, like under furniture. We should also note that carpet beetle larvae aren’t dangerous and they don’t bite (which the reader asked about). However, their hairs can cause skin irritation – some people have an allergic reaction to them – and they can damage various fabrics, like those found in carpet and on furniture.
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And this brings us to our reader’s last concern: should she get new carpet and furniture? Unless she has a serious infestation for a long time, we wouldn’t think this is necessary. They can certainly be gotten rid of without such extreme measures, so unless her carpet and furniture has been seriously damaged by the larvae, we don’t see any reason for her to take the expensive step of replacing everything. It is much better to clean and see if this takes care of the problem.
So, our reader very likely found carpet beetle larvae, and the way to get rid of them is through cleaning. (Again, our article about getting rid of “worms” under furniture should be consulted.) Although they are obviously an unwelcome guest, our reader needn’t panic and replace her furniture and carpet. She should clean thoroughly and then assess the situation after that.