Your Question: What is eating my carpets?
Some of us with a wool or wool blend carpet have had the unpleasant experience of noticing our carpets slowly receding from the wall. Closer inspection of this phenomenon shows numbers of hairy carpet beetle larvae to be the cause of the loss.
Varied carpet beetle
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from e_monk
There are a number of different species of introduced and native carpet beetles. As adults carpet beetles are small and usually dark, often with patterned scales on the body. The adults feed on pollen and can often be found on the window ledge trying to get outside to feed. The larvae can often be hard to see so finding the adults on window ledges can be a good pointer as to the likely presence of the larvae. As the adults feed on pollen, they won’t cause damage to property but of course will be looking to lay more eggs to maintain the population.
Despite their common name, these tenacious insects will feed on a variety of things such as carcasses, feathers, felt, textiles of an organic nature and pet hair.
Carpet beetles Anthrenus verbasci on a flower head
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 from Ombrosoparacloucycle
These beetles can originate in bird or mammal nesting which may be in the roof or walls from where the larvae and adults find their way down into the house. Neither the larvae nor the adult beetles bite people but if left unchecked they do have the ability to cause damage to a variety of objects containing organic matter such as carpets, felt on pianos, clothing made from wool, insect collections and animal mounts. There is also the possibility for the shed larval skins to cause some irritation to people.
Dermestidae: Anthrenus sp (larva).
Image: Jacobo Martin
Source: Used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 2.0 from JMDN
While these small beetles do a great job in nature of helping to break down and consume organic matter it is wise to prevent them from dining out on your expensive woollens. Undertake regular vacuuming concentrating under furniture or areas that are not often disturbed. Keep an eye out for any build up of pet hair and lint which can also support populations of these beetles.
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CSIRO: Guide to the control of clothes moths and carpet beetles.
CSIRO: Carpet Beetles