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Carpet Beetles

Now that the holidays and most of the winter weather are behind us its time to pack away our winter coats and gloves. 

Before you seal those items away its important to protect them.

Anything made of wool or fur is vulnerable to damage by carpet beetles.

Carpet beetles are very common through out the state.

The local variety is called the Varied carpet beetle because of its speckled appearance.

The speckles can range from cream to brown and grey to black.

Adult beetles are shaped like ladybugs but are only about one fifth of their size.  They are strong fliers and can be found outdoors in early spring feeding on pollen.  Indoors they can often be found in window sills where they are attracted to light.

In the wild they are one of natures janitors.  Occasionally referred to as hide beetles, they lay their eggs in bird nests and animal dens where the young feed on hair, feathers, insect carcasses and any other protein they can get into.

In your home they can damage wool suits, fur coats, gloves, carpets and other natural fibers.  Fortunately, cotton and synthetic fibers are immune to attack.

They are the bane of museums, hunters and insect collectors with mounted specimens where they do irreparable damage to collections.

Adults lay eggs in early spring that hatch into wooly caterpillars. These caterpillars have a distinctive cigar shape with bands of pigment and hair that form brown and white bands that run from side to side. 

These hairs aren’t just for decoration. They are very strong and sharp and evolved to protect them from parasitic wasps.  When attacked they curl up to protect the less hairy underbelly.

If a person is sensitive or is exposed to high concentrations of these hairs they can have an adverse or allergic reaction.

Pet owners are at a higher risk of infestation because pet hair can accumulate in air ducts and inaccessible areas. Regular duct cleaning along with vacuuming under furniture, appliances, and along baseboards can help reduce eggs and food for the insect.

Other factors include animal activity in your home.  A dead bird or rodent can support several generations of beetles.  So, animal proofing your home will go a long way toward preventing infestation.

If you have mounted animal trophies, wool carpet, drapes or furniture it is particularly important to animal proof and vacuum floors and ducts.

Protecting your clothing is a bit easier.

Dry cleaning kills all stages of this insect.  Storing garments in a sealed trunk, closet or garment bag with mothballs or odorless products like Nuvan pest strips will kill any insects that get in with them.

Products like Nuvan or moth balls work by releasing vapors that kill the insect so it is important that the closet / trunk / etc. be as air tight as possible.■