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Several species of Carpet Beetles may damage fabrics. Four species are most commonly encountered-the black carpet beetle, varied carpet beetle, common carpet beetle, and furniture carpet beetle. Together, this group is usually considered more economically important as fabric pests than the clothes moths.
Many other common beetles resemble adult and larval carpet beetles. The hide beetles (discussed later ), museum beetles, bird nest carpet beetles, and cabinet beetles all have a somewhat similar appearance. Although both adults and larvae may be mistaken for carpet beetles, close attention to the descriptions of the carpet beetles, together with an understanding of the larval habits, will usually allow proper identification.
These beetles all have a complete metamorphosis, that is egg, larva, pupa and adult - the same life cycle as a butterfly - with the larva being the only stage that causes damage to fabrics. All of the adults are small and inconspicuous beetles which are rarely seen by homeowners. Adults may be found indoors or outdoors, and frequently on flowers surrounding a house where they feed on pollen. Flowering shrubs such as Spirea and Pyracantha are particularly attractive to adult carpet beetles, but other species of flowering plants may be visited.
Black Carpet Beetle Adult
(Actual Size - 1/8 inch - 5mm)
This as the most abundant and widespread of the carpet beetles and is the species which causes the greatest damage to fabrics and other keratin containing articles throughout most of the United States.
Adults are shiny black with brownish legs, and grow to a length of 1/8- to 3/ 16-inch. They are frequently found outdoors in flowers and are most numerous in the spring and early summer. They lay eggs either indoors or outdoors, beginning 4 to 8 days after the adult emerges. Each female lays approximately 50 eggs over a period of about 3 weeks, after which she dies. Indoors, these eggs are deposited in accumulations of lint, in air ducts, underneath baseboards and other similar places. Eggs hatch in 6 to 11 days in warm weather.
Larvae are quite tiny when they hatch, but have the same distinctive elongated carrot- or cigar-shaped bodies and long, brushy tail bristles which are so easily seen on the larger larvae. Body color varies from a light brown to almost black. They can develop under a wide range of temperatures and humidity conditions, and are much less susceptible to environmental changes than are clothes moths. Larvae may grow to 1/2-inch long over a series of 5 to 11 molts. They tend to avoid lighted areas, so are found most frequently in the lower parts of clothes closets, rolled up or wrapped into woolen materials, at the edge of carpeting under baseboards, or inside upholstered furniture. Mature larvae can wander rather widely, so may be found anywhere in a building. It is not at all unusual to find them in a bathtub, kitchen sink, or even crawling on walls and ceilings.
Black carpet beetle larvae are general feeders, feeding on dead animal materials, hair, fur, hides and horns, as well as the usual woolen products and many plant materials such as cereals, stored grain or nuts. They tend to be surface feeders on wool, usually eating the nap from fabric and leaving the base threads relatively unaffected. However, they are quite capable of eating large, irregular holes through any suitable food material. In fur, hairs are cut at the base with no injury to the hide. The hair then readily drops out leaving a bare appearance to the hide. Black carpet beetle larvae frequently burrow through containers to obtain food, leaving small openings through which other insects may enter to cause additional damage. Cast skins and frass in the form of minute, irregular pellets are frequently found on infested fabrics.
Black carpet beetle larvae may live as short as 9 months to as long as 3 years, depending on their diet and environmental conditions. Larvae pupate in the last larval skin, with the pupal state lasting from 6 to 24 days.
Adult Varied Carpet Beetle(Actual Size 1/8 inch - 5mm)
The Varied Carpet Beetle is widely distributed in the United States. Adults are much smaller than the black carpet beetle. Their body shape is more rounded when viewed from above and they have a pattern of white, brown and yellow scales on the upper surface of their wing covers or elytra.
Eggs are laid in various locations, where they hatch in 17 to 18 days. Larvae molt 7 or 8 times over about 7 to 11 months. Mature larvae are rarely more than 1/4-inch long and bear three pairs of hair tufts on the back end of the abdomen. The hairs in these tufts are shaped like arrow heads. These hairs can be irritating to the skin, or if breathed into the nose or lungs. The larvea is rather wide in proportion to its length and is usually broader at the back than at the front.
Varied Carpet Beetle Larva(Actual Size 1/4 inch - 8mm)
Varied carpet beetle larvae are scavengers. They are quite common in nests of birds and spiders, on dead animals and in insect collections. They feed on a variety of animal products such as woolens, carpets, hides, feathers, horns, bone and insect pupae; as well as on plant products such as rye meal, corn, red pepper and other similar materials. Pupae take 10 to 13 days to develop into adults
(Actual Size 1/4 inch - 8mm)
Common Carpet Beetle Adults are small, rounded, gray to blackish in color with a varied pattern of white and orange scales on the back. There is an orange-red band of scales down the middle of the back. Adult beetles feed on nectar and pollen in flowers. Each female deposits 30 to 40 small, white eggs which hatch in 10 to 20 days.
Larvae are rather active, frequently moving about rapidly. Their body is an elongated, oval shape, and rarely more than 1/4-inch long. They are reddish-brown and covered with numerous black or brown hairs. There is an average of six molts over a period of 60 to 70 days, after which pupation occurs in the last larval skin. The pupal stage lasts for 12 to 15 days, but the beetle typically remains in the old larval skin for approximately 18 days before becoming active.
Larvae of this beetle often attack carpets; but also eat other woolens, furs, feathers, silk, museum specimens and similar materials.
Adult Furniture Carpet Beetle(Actual Size 1/8 inch - 5mm)
Furniture Carpet Beetles often attack upholstered furniture. Adults are small, rounded and blackish, with a mottling of yellow and white scales on the back and a heavy coating of yellow scales on the legs. The color pattern varies considerably. In some specimens the yellow scales are darker and more numerous, while in others the white scales predominate.
Females lay a total of 35 to 100 eggs in one to three batches. At room temperature these hatch in approximately 3 weeks. Larvae then develop through 6 to 12 molts over a period of 3 to 6 months. They are oval-shaped, somewhat elongated and thickly covered with brownish hairs.
The pupa is white and develops in the last larval skin. At room temperature, the pupal stage lasts from 14 to 19 days. The adult remains in the pupal skin for 1 to 10 weeks before becoming active.
Furniture carpet beetles are found frequently on furniture where they feed on hair, padding, feathers and woolen upholstering. They commonly feed on other woolens, carpets, fur, bristles, horns, silk and other such materials. They will also feed on such fibers as linen, cotton, rayon and jute when these are stained with animal body oils or other soilage.
Odd Beetle(Actual Size 1/2 inch - 12mm)
Odd Beetle adult females do not even look like a beetle in general body form. The body is broader and more stout than the male, and there are no wings. The antennae are thin and about twice as long as the head is wide. There is a median ocellus between the rather small compound eyes.
Adult females do not even look like a beetle in general body form. The body is broader and more stout than the male, and there are no wings. The antennae are thin and about twice as long as the head is wide. There is a median ocellus between the rather small compound eyes.
Odd beetle larvae are rather similar in appearance to those of the other carpet beetles, but do not have long hairs at the tip of the abdomen nor on the upper surface of the body. However, there is a row of coarse, stout bristles across the top rear edge of each body segment, and those hairs on the rear edge of the thorax are distinctly club shaped. The larva tends to roll up in a ball when disturbed, another characteristic which will aid identification.
These insects attack dry animal matter and will feed readily on woolen cloth. They have also been known to damage silk.
The odd beetle is an introduced species. Since adult females are wingless, dispersal of the species depends primarily upon its being carried from place to place in moving and commerce. This insect has been found in situations which seem to be remote from its normal food.
Control methods for the odd beetle are similar to those used for carpet beetles.
Hide Beetle(Actual Size 3/8 inch 10mm)
There are several species Hide Beetles that are considered fabric pests since they can be found in tanneries and warehouses which process hides and skin. They can also be found in homes attacking furs, animal skins, feathers, and meats or cheeses. The three most economically important hide beetles are the larder beetle, the black larder beetle, and the hide or leather beetle. These beetles occasionally invade homes and infest other products of an animal base. They are also found in birds' nests, attacking dead bird or mouse carcasses in attics, in museum collections of stuffed animals or in beehives, where dead bees and wax are eaten. Both the adults and larvae damage materials during feeding.
The female beetle must feed before laying eggs. Eggs are about 1/12 inch in length and are laid in foodstuffs such as hides and other dry animal matter. Egg laying continues for 2-3 months, and the total number laid varies from 200 to 800. Larvae begin to feed soon after hatching. They are active and relatively agile in dark areas, but in the light they may become immobile. There are normally five or six larval molts. The fully grown larva measures about 1/2 inch in length. The larva wanders when it matures, seeking a pupation site. It may burrow into such materials as wood or other soft substrates before pupating. The final larval skin acts as a plug protecting the pupa from predaceous insects. If the larva is unable to bore a tunnel, the skin remains attached to the pupa.
Fabric pest detection requires a thorough knowledge of pest biology and behavior. Be sure to know where pet foods, mounted animal specimens, insect collections, skins, furs, woolens, seeds, organic fertilizers (e.g., bone meals) and other items likely to be infested are stored. You also need to know if there are bird nests under eaves or in the attic, or if there are any wasp or hornet nests around. By knowing the answers to these questions, you can save a great deal of time.
You should make a thorough inspection of infested premises to find all sources of infestation before making any attempt at control. It is important to remember that adults of these insects do not feed on woolens or on any of the other materials which may be attacked by the larvae. The presence of adults in an area does not necessarily mean that larvae are in the same area, since the adults may have already laid their eggs in some other room and may be moving around at random or orienting towards bright sunlight shining through windows (they will want to disperse to outdoor areas).
Clothes moth and carpet beetle larvae prefer to feed in secluded and protected places. When searching for them, a good flashlight and a knife, nail file or small spatula are essential tools. Larvae will usually be found in dark clothes closets, on furs, woolens, hair padding, bits of carpeting, or other such materials in storage. They are also found in lint, especially under baseboards and around door casings, under the edges of carpeting, in and under upholstered furniture, in collections of animal hair, in air ducts, occasionally in cereals in the kitchen or pantry, and anywhere else where suitable food material might be available. When inspecting for carpet beetle larvae, be especially careful to examine under baseboards, around the bottoms of door casings, under the edges of carpeting, and in closets. Use the knife blade or other implement to bring out bits of lint which are usually found in these areas, and examine them closely for live larvae or their cast skins. Cast skins are sometimes more numerous than live larvae, but they resemble live larvae so closely that they can be used for identification purposes. Use a flashlight when examining dark closets and other such places.
In addition to the above-mentioned sources, it is very important that certain natural sources of infestation be considered. Look for articles of woolen clothing which may have been stored and neglected, and check the premises for old furniture and rugs which may be a source of continuing infestation. Other important reservoirs which are often overlooked include sites which represent the natural habitat of these insects. Sparrow, starling, or other bird nests, inside or outside of the premises, are common points of origin (or continuation) for fabric pest infestations. Wasp nests which are found under eaves and in attics are also common sources of carpet beetle and clothes moth infestations. Moth or beetle larvae feed upon the remainders of dead insects fed to the wasp larvae, on cast wasp larval skins and sometimes upon the living wasp larvae. Another important reservoir of food material for carpet beetle and clothes moth larvae is accumulations of animal hair which may be found quite often in homes where pets are kept. Shed hair may accumulate in heating ducts, beneath furniture, or in hard-to-clean corners. These loose tangles of hair may be sufficient to sustain a small population of fabric pests for a long period of time, even in places where all wool products might have been treated.
Clothes moth and carpet fabric pest detection requires a thorough knowledge of pest biology and behavior. Observation can also be a source of useful information, as you will know where pet foods, mounted animal specimens, insect collections, skins, furs, woolens, seeds, organic fertilizers (e.g., bone meals) and other items likely to be infested are stored. They may also know if there are bird nests under eaves or in the attic, or if there are any wasp or hornet nests around.
Sanitation and Prevention
Preventive measures should be practiced whenever possible, because once a "hole" is made the damage is done and may not be repairable. Preventive procedures include preventive sanitation and related chemical measures, and protection by mothproofing of garments or fabrics. Much can be done to prevent fabric pest problems by means of household cleanliness, including thorough and frequent cleaning of carpeting and upholstery with a vacuum cleaner, and brushing, airing, and dry cleaning of susceptible clothing or other articles. Avoid prolonged storage of discarded garments, bedding, any fur or animal pelts (unprotected taxidermy) and old wool rugs or furniture upholstered with vulnerable fabrics. Remember that a clean environment is not conducive to activity of fabric-destroying insects. It is not absolutely necessary that the item itself support fabric insect development. Soiled articles of otherwise indigestible materials can be attacked, or garments of wool blend fabrics can be attacked. In all moth and carpet beetle control work, it is essential to eliminate as many potential breeding places as possible. Old pieces of woolen fabric, cut off pieces of carpeting, old feather pillows, dried flower arrangements or "shadow boxes" (with caches of seeds in them) and other such sources of fabric insect food should be destroyed. Areas under baseboards, behind door casings, under heat radiators, and inside furnace or air conditioning registers should be thoroughly cleaned with a vacuum cleaner to remove as much lint as possible. A vacuum cleaner with strong suction is a good piece of special equipment to use. Careful, routine attention to such sanitation procedures, will be very beneficial toward limiting fabric insect problems.
Several preventive approaches can be used in close association with these sanitation procedures. The most commonly recommended chemical for preventive control in storage situations is Insect Guard which acts as a repellent and continuous fumigant. Stored woolens should be interspaced with crystals of this material which have been wrapped in clean paper, as the fabrics are packed into tightly sealed trunks or boxes. Use of tight containers such as large, sealed plastic bags, which are then kept in tight boxes or chests, is important toward obtaining optimum protection for the longest possible time. Remember that it is important to maintain the highest possible concentration of the Insect Guard vapors inside the plastic bag containing the susceptible items. Naphthalene (moth balls), are less desirable to use, and are also less effective. Cedar closets and most cedar chests are ineffective, primarily because a sufficiently tight seal is rarely maintained. Garment storage in cold vaults is an effective preventive measure, especially for very valuable furs or other susceptible garments.
Direct Fabric Protection
Mothproofing and clothes moth control are two different things. Mothproofing implies preventive applications of an insecticide to avoid infestation. Clothes moth or carpet beetle control is the correction of an existing infestation. Mothproofing is often accomplished by a special treatment during the manufacture of woolen fabric or other susceptible items. In some instances it is also a service of a dry cleaning company.
Various moth proofers will give protection from moth and carpet beetle damage. These chemicals depend for their action on killing larvae either after light feeding or brief contact (before feeding occurs). Many fabrics which are treated with a mothproofing solution at the time of manufacture are safe from damage until the chemicals are removed, either by washing, dry cleaning or simple degradation. You should never attempt to mothproof articles of clothing. When you desire to have clothing treated, it is usually best that treatment be made during dry cleaning if such treatment is available in your area. Such mothproofing of clothing is usually quite effective over the length of time between cleanings, or for storage during the summer months.
CB 80 and Insect Guard are currently labeled for general mothproofing applications to other articles besides clothing (carpets, area rugs, tapestries, drapes, etc.). Generally, these are applied to these items after they have been removed and dry cleaned (if possible), and while located in a convenient place which facilitates thorough application. Fine sprays should be carefully applied to obtain thorough coverage, but only after possible staining problems have been considered and tests done to assure such problems will not arise.
When infestations of clothes moths or carpet beetles are encountered, a rather extensive program of insecticide applications will usually be necessary after appropriate sanitation has been implemented. Spray insecticides such Precor 2625, Ultracide, Demand CS, Bifen I/T, Tempo SC Ultra and various non-residual foggers such as CB80 are recommended for spot treatment or more general applications, as necessary. Residual sprays are generally applied with a hand sprayer, using a fine fan-spray nozzle.
Critical areas of infestation, usually identified during the inspection process, should receive special attention. In carpets, this would be around baseboard areas and underfurniture. In furniture, this would be around seams, buttons, other cracks and crevices and padding areas.
All insecticides should be applied as a rather fine wet spray, directly to material being treated. Applications to upholstery fabrics should be made lightly, moving rapidly while spraying. Do not soak the fabric, because this will frequently result in staining not caused by the pesticide but caused by the water.
When treating carpets, be careful to prevent staining or soiling. If possible, the carpet should be cleaned before insecticide treatment. Be very careful not to soil the treated carpet with dirt from shoes or other sources, and try not to walk on treated areas until after they have thoroughly dried.
Whenever possible, it will be best to remove all furniture from a room which is to be treated. This may not be possible due to the size and weight of the furniture involved, or lack of space to put it elsewhere. Furniture can be moved and the carpeting under it treated, after which it can be replaced in its original location. When placing furniture on treated carpet, be sure to place some kind of temporary pad under the casters or skids on the bottom, as well as entirely underneath any other wood or metal articles which may touch the carpet. Failure to do this may result in the formation of rust marks on the carpet from metal parts, or stain marks from the wooden portions of furniture. Both types of stain are almost impossible to remove and can result in costly damage claims. Corrugated cardboard, cut into strips or squares, makes good padding for this purpose, as do folded paper towels, or small paper plates can also be used. The pads should not be removed until the carpet is thoroughly dry, usually after 2 or 3 days.
Regardless of the insecticide being used, be sure to keep small children and pets away from treated furniture and carpeting until they are thoroughly dry. These chemicals may be hazardous while they are wet. Check the insecticide product label for any other caution statements which may apply to this use.
These residual chemicals are all removed to some extent by subsequent washing, vacuuming and dry cleaning. The insecticide manufacturer's recommendations about length of control and re-treatment intervals should always be observed.
If furniture is infested, it may be necessary to open cushions or to remove the covering from the bottom of sofas or chairs, so the padding will be exposed. Special attention should be given to the padding inside upholstered furniture, which may be composed of feathers or horsehair (especially in antique furniture) and is susceptible to insect damage. Exposed padding can then be treated with sprays which will not harm the padding, or it can be thoroughly treated with a suitable aerosol such as Ultracide with IGR. Aerosol applications are generally preferred for this situation, because there will be no drying time required and aerosols with an IGR usually give long residual control. These products should not be used where subsequent contact with skin or clothing can be expected, so exposed upholstery surfaces or carpeted areas on which people or pets will sit should not be sprayed. When infestations are not heavy, non-residual or contact spray applications such as Precor 2625
Premise Spray and Bifen I/T will kill both exposed adults and larvae. These sprays should be applied closely to cracks and crevices with as much force as possible to drive the spray in deeply. An aerosol spray such as CB 80 is frequently effective in closets. With all such applications, care must be exercised to avoid staining of clothes, walls, or furniture. Traps such as the Catchmaster 288i Professional Bug Traps can be used under and behind furniture or inside stored rugs to help capture carpet beetles and to help monitor their infestation levels
Many professional pest companies prefer to apply a residual insecticide such Precor 2625 or Demand CS to all of the appropriate areas, and then follow up with an aerosol application of a non-residual insecticide such as CB 80. This assures complete control of adult and larval stages which may not be directly in the areas treated with the residual material. This dual application approach is especially appropriate when damage is extensive and widespread or when many active adults have been seen in widely scattered areas of the premises; or during seasons when egg-laying is occurring.
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