“What is this worm?” asks this reader about an organism she found. The organism in question appears to be black in color, with multiple hair-thin appendages spiking out from the sides of its body.
Not only does our reader wish to know what this worm is, but she also wants to know how to get rid of it. Well firstly, we can say that this is a black carpet beetle larva. This is indicated by its segmented body, its bristles that stick out from its sides, as well as its shape. Usually, black carpet beetle larvae are black and white-striped, but at times, the white stripes can be difficult to make out, or are not present, and we think this is probably the case with this larva.
Black carpet beetle larva eat animal-based materials, such as leather, feathers, cotton, wool and more, and are considered household pests. What is worse about black carpet beetle larvae is that they will even eat synthetic materials as well, so nothing is really safe. They are prone to infesting homes, and their numbers can increase exponentially over a short period of time. For that reason, carpet beetle larvae should be dealt with at the earliest opportunity. If our reader is lucky, she will only find the one she photographed, and she can just place it outside and call it a day. If she is unlucky, there are more carpet beetle larvae lurking in her home and she may even be experiencing an infestation. In this case, there are a few steps she will want to follow to get rid of the larvae.
Firstly, she will want to locate a source. This is indicated by a heavy concentration of eggs and larvae (though the eggs may be difficult to see with the naked eye), so generally look for the room where most of the larvae are roaming. Places to look include: underneath furniture, behind or on upholstered furniture, in the attic, in the closet, or generally any spot that is secluded where a larva could feed on fabrics in peace.
Secondly, one will want to vacuum up the eggs and larvae at the source. It might also be a good idea to vacuum one’s entire home, as one cannot be sure they have not spread to the rest of the home. Thirdly, it is imperative that one launders or steam-cleans (depending on the type of material and if it is possible to throw in the washing machine) all fabrics in the home at the highest temperature they can withstand. In the case of the black carpet beetle, this even includes synthetic materials. This second steps should be repeated frequently for a period of two weeks, two to three times a week. It will be exhausting, but it is necessary.
Lastly, one should take preventative measures to make sure such an infestation does not occur again. Sealing cracks in flooring, walling and window screens ensures that insects cannot simply crawl into one’s home. Inventorying, donating or selling clothing items that are unused is also a good way to prevent specifically carpet beetle larvae from wanting to infest one’s home. Vacuum-sealed bags are an excellent way to do this, and cold vaults too (though it is not as common of a possession).
To conclude, the worm our reader found is actually a black carpet beetle larva. For the sake of our reader, we hope that she only finds the one, and that she is not experiencing an infestation. Carpet beetle infestations are incredibly difficult and annoying to deal with, especially when they concern this particular species. However, we are confident that if our reader applies the methods listed above, were she to discover more larvae (or the adults beetles themselves, who may be feeding on one’s kitchen items!), she will be able to eradicate the infestation. The best of luck to her!