A concerned mother wrote to us about a creature she found on her son’s mattress protector in the laundry room. Although the photograph provided is quite blurry, we can tell that the creature in question appears to be oval in shape, and is brown and tan in color, though not much more can be ascertained.
Our reader wonders if this critter is a flea larva, as her family is in the midst of a flea issue. In fact, two days prior to sending in her query, our reader had an exterminator come to her home, and she reports that her son was bit. Otherwise, our reader states that she has never seen ‘a single flea on his bed.’ Consequently, that is because this is not a flea larva, but rather a carpet beetle larva. Flea larvae tend to be almost completely translucent, and sometimes have a dark stripe on the inside, which is their innards. On the other hand, carpet beetle larvae are either brown and tan, like the one in the photo, or black and white. Additionally, they have long bristles that stick out from their bodies and are often striped.
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Before we get into the rest of the article, it should be noted that carpet beetles are completely harmless toward humans and do not bite. It is also not common to get human fleas (pig fleas) inside the home, as the most common infestation of fleas are those that only bite domesticated pets such as dogs and cats. If our reader has cause to believe something else bit her son, and she is worried for his health, we urge her to take her son to a doctor. As we are not medical professionals, this is not something we can help with.
Carpet beetles are common, clothes-eating, household pests. It is the larvae of these creatures that do the most damage, as all they do is feed on animal-based textiles. This can include clothing, upholstery, bed-sheets and carpets. As they prefer dark, cramped spaces, this is often where one will find them, such as in between the fibers of a carpet, in the folds of clothing, or underneath and behind upholstered furniture. This is where one will want to look to vacuum up the larvae and eggs so as to get rid of a potential infestation of them. Although the adult carpet beetles stick to pollen and nectar, if mature and stuck inside a home, they will resort to human foods such as grains, rice and cereals.
In addition to locating the source of the carpet beetles and vacuuming up the organisms, in order to eradicate an infestation of carpet beetle larvae, one will want to vacuum all the potential spots that carpet beetles could be residing. Following that, washing all infested, or potentially infested, fabrics in hot temperatures will ensure the elimination of any remaining organisms. On carpets and other fabrics one cannot launder, steam cleaning should yield the same results. Lastly, in order to ensure no carpet beetles return, it is important to securely store any animal-based garments that are not being used for longer periods of time. Vacuum-sealing or storing clothing in cold vaults (if that option is available) are both good options for making sure clothes-eating critters stay away from the fabrics one wants to protect.
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To conclude, the creature our reader found on her son’s mattress is not a flea larva, but actually a carpet beetle larva. These pests are harmless, but can prove to be a nuisance, and quite hard to get rid of, so we recommend treating this issue as soon as possible. Like we said, if our reader thinks that whatever bit her son may put him at risk, health-wise, we urge her to take him to a medical professional who will be able to accurately diagnose and properly treat whatever the problem may be.