A reader wrote to us recently about some small black worms that he is finding on the carpet under his desk. The black worms are only about an eighth of an inch long and they move quickly. In general, the reader isn’t especially concerned about the small black worms, as he doesn’t “mind them in particular if they were under the bed or something.” However, their presence under his desk is a problem because he is normally barefoot, and he is (understandably) “grossed out by the idea of them being there.” The reader is wondering what the small black worms under his desk are, and he is also wondering if they are dangerous and how he can get rid of them.
First, here is a picture of one of the small black worms:
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This isn’t the clearest picture, but you can at least tell that the worm is quite small and has a short, plump body. It looks like, just as the reader says, a short black worm.
When we were first looking over our reader’s message, we thought we were dealing with a classic carpet beetle larvae question. We write about these creatures all the time, and we more or less anticipate answering a question related to carpet beetle larvae every couple of weeks or so. The creatures our reader found are about the size and shape of a carpet beetle larvae, and they are found exactly where one might expect to find them, on carpet under a piece of furniture. Also, and as implied by the frequency with which we write about them, they are quite common, and of course our reader is more likely to have found something that is common. For these reasons, we still think it is reasonably likely that he found carpet beetle larvae, and we have written about getting rid of these larvae many times, so our reader can consult other articles on this website for the task of removal. Also, we should note that carpet beetle larvae are not particularly harmful, although their tiny hairs can cause irritation when they come in contact with bare skin, and they can damage various fabrics around the house as well. If our reader found carpet beetle larvae, we have already addressed all of his concerns.
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However, there is one thing the reader said that calls the “carpet beetle larvae” suggestion into question, which is that the creature he found moves “quite fast.” When the reader took the above picture with a flash, the larvae (or whatever they are) “bolted asap,” and while carpet beetle larvae do avoid light and open spaces, they aren’t able to move very quickly. They don’t move at a snail’s pace or anything, but it would be a little strange to call them “quite fast.” All we can really do is note this limitation of our identification, though, as we don’t have alternatives to offer. Lots of household pests are quick (e.g., centipedes), but the picture above isn’t clear enough, nor are the details thorough enough, to suggest other possibilities, and what we do know about the creature suggests it is a carpet beetle larvae.