A few days ago we received a question through the All About Worms Facebook page about a “brown worm” on a reader’s mattress. She also found dead worm bodies on the carpet and on a spare mattress in her bedroom. On the basis of articles we have published, she suspects she found carpet beetle larvae, and we think she is correct. Thus, she isn’t finding worms or dead worm bodies, but larvae and dead larva bodies. The reader’s problem is relatively widespread, as the carpet beetle larvae can be found throughout her entire apartment – on the mattress, carpet, and walls. The reader has already started implementing some of the elimination strategies we have written about before, but asked for further advice.
We’ll begin with one of the photos the reader submitted, which shows a larvae on one of the reader’s mattresses:
The reader sent two additional photos along with her question, and what’s strange is that every image shows a larva with a slightly different appearance. However, they all look like carpet beetle larvae, and the circumstances suggest our reader found carpet beetle larvae as well. We can’t be absolutely certain this is what she found, but it is the most promising possibility.
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We have written about getting rid of carpet beetle larvae before, and we have written about getting rid of them in specific situations, like when one finds them under the furniture or in the closet. So, rather than rehash things we’ve already discussed, we’ll focus more on our reader’s precise circumstances. She mentions that she started to wash all her clothes, which can’t hurt because carpet beetle larvae can dig into the fabrics of clothing. Clothing that is unwashed and unmoved, like a pile of dirty laundry in the corner, is a particularly inviting place for carpet beetle larvae. As the reader points out, however, the carpet beetle larvae are all over her place, and it isn’t even clear if her clothing has been affected by the infestation. Thus, targeting her clothes might not be particularly helpful at this stage.
Indeed, we aren’t sure if targeting anything in particular will be helpful since it isn’t clear where the larvae are coming from. The spare mattress seems like it might be a problem, and carpet beetle larvae can definitely go after mattresses because many are stuffed with hair or feathers (which the larvae eat), but it’s impossible for us to say. Moreover, the larvae seem to have expanded, so finding ground zero, as it were, might be of limited use. The reader should certainly go about cleaning her apartment as thoroughly as possible, removing all the larvae she finds, vacuuming the carpet, and laundering the fabrics in her home, but if the larva have taken hold – like if they are embedded within the mattress and spreading from there – cleaning may not be enough.
The reader mentioned the prospect of simply spraying Raid in her apartment and closing the windows for several hours, but this is inadvisable since any sort of chemical treatments should be more targeted. Basically, you are trying to use an insecticide to reach a place you can’t clean, like a small crack were larva food might accumulate, or a place that you can’t frequently clean. Moreover, if the larvae have burrowed themselves into the mattress, a surface level chemical treatment won’t even help the issue. (If an infested mattress isn’t discarded, it normally has to be treated in the fumigation vault of a professional.) So, we definitely do not recommend spraying Raid all over her apartment and closing the windows.
For now, all we can recommend is serious cleaning, and hopefully this will take care of the problem. Perhaps special vigilance should be given to her mattresses. If everything is thoroughly cleaned and the larvae keep showing up, the infestation might need to be addressed by a pest control professional. In addition to reading anything on this site, we also call our reader’s attention to the thorough guide to carpet beetle larvae produced by the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management program. This is the best resource we have found on identifying and controlling carpet beetle larvae. We wish our reader the best of luck, and hope that cleaning takes care of the problem.