Today we will attempt to solve a mystery for our reader: is her family dealing with bed bugs or carpet beetle larvae? She explained that they are currently using a professional treatment in their home for bed bugs, but hasn’t seen any bed bugs yet. She did find this specimen on the wall next to the toilet, and another one on the doorway leading to her basement:
Our reader explained that she stayed in a hotel a few months ago, so figured that the bed bugs came with her family back from the hotel. However, now she is wondering if these could actually be carpet beetle larvae, especially since she hasn’t seen any bed bugs. She knows that carpet beetle larvae can cause a skin rash, so thinks they might have been confusing the rash for bed bug bites. Since she has young children in her house, she is keen to abandon the pesticide treatment if it isn’t actually treating bed bugs. Let’s take a closer look at this organism:
So, is this a carpet beetle larva or a bed bug? Bed bugs are usually about the size of an appleseed with a flat, brown, oval-shaped body. Carpet beetle larvae are about the same size as bed bugs, but have round, segmented, rust-colored bodies that are typically covered in tiny coarse hairs. Despite the wonderful photograph, it is still quite difficult to determine if this is a carpet beetle larva or a bed bug. We are not 100% confident, but after zooming in on the photographs and noticing what could be tiny hairs on the specimen, we think this is a carpet beetle larva.
It is easy to confuse bed bugs and carpet beetle larvae since they have similar appearances and habitats (beds for example!) Like our reader mentioned, both may also cause some skin discomfort. Carpet beetle larvae don’t bite like bed bugs, but their coarse hairs can cause a skin irritation known as carpet beetle dermatitis. The good news is that if we are correct in believing these are carpet beetle larvae and not bed bugs, the pesticide treatment can come to an end. The best way to get rid of carpet beetle larvae doesn’t involve pesticides, just thorough cleaning.
Our reader will need to begin a cleaning regime that might give her a headache at first, but will pay off when her home is larvae-free! She will first need to identify the location and source (or possibly locations and sources) of carpet beetle larvae in her home. They feed on a wide variety of items such as upholstered furniture, bedding, wool, feathers, felt, and clothing. Our reader will need to either dispose of or temporarily remove damaged items from her home, and clean all fabrics that have been infested. Even if she doesn’t see carpet beetle larvae on a specific item, it is a good bet to clean it if she found larvae or evidence of larvae in the area of the item because it could contain unseen eggs. In addition to doing laundry, our reader will need to sweep, vacuum, and dust her home often. While we know this is daunting, we cannot stress how important it is to be diligent in the cleaning efforts. Carpet beetle larvae are tricky! They can survive for long periods of time without eating and can travel to other rooms in a house looking for food.
In conclusion, we believe the mysterious brown bugs our reader found in her home are carpet beetle larvae, not bed bugs. We wish our reader the best of luck and happy cleaning!