Sunday, March 15, 2009

Small, tiny, little black bugs in homes

carpet beetle
varied carpet beetle
I am a volunteer in the "Entomology (Study of Bugs)" section at a site called AllExperts. The site allows users to ask questions of volunteer "experts" in a variety of categories.

As a volunteer I get a variety of interesting and sometimes funny questions but one category stands out because of how often it is asked, often using very similar words. The question starts out something like "I have [small or tiny or little] black bugs on the walls in my ____________. They crunch when I squish them. What are they?" Sometimes the question includes a picture but often it does not. While there are many insects that fit this general description the one that you are most likely to find in the typical home are dermestid beetles, commonly called carpet beetles (see photo above). Carpet beetle adults can be all black to mottled grey, white, and brown, and round to oval in shape. They are all fairly small (see carpet beetle pictures).

Need an id? Send me a clear image here.

Carpet beetles are very common and you can find a few in almost every home. Carpet beetle larvae (often described as "fuzzy", see pictures here) feed on a wide variety of plant and animal material including hides, hair, dried plant fibers, grains and so forth. Our modern homes are full of this sort of material - we call it wool, silk, natural cloth fibers, cereal and even dry pet food. Animal skins and mounted animal trophies can be damaged by carpet beetles as well.

Carpet beetles reproduce more slowly than some other pests so they may be relatively few in number but their damage can be significant. Dermestid beetles can be especially damaging in museums and other places where animal and plant materials are stored for long periods.

Carpet beetle control

Don't be overly concerned if you find a few carpet beetles on the walls of your home. They pose no threat to the home's structure and they won't bite. Normal cleaning and proper food storage is usually all that is needed to keep carpet beetles under control. Do not resort to insecticides and never use mothballs (see this article about mothballs and their dangers for more information).

If you are finding beetles regularly or discover an infestation in stored food, take a look at our control suggestions.  

Questions? Contact us here.

17 comments:

Bobbie said...

what is small round black bug (little smaller than regular size tick) with solid black hard shell? It was stuck to my leg like a tick. Would not brush off. came off pretty easily with tweezers. Did not sting, hurt, etc. until about 7-8 hours later. Got a perfectly round very red place with definite bite mark. No "bulls eye". am taking Doxycyline (10 days).
Help, please!

Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D. said...

Bobbie,

This does sound like a tick. If you have a picture send me a copy at livingwithbugs@gmail.com and I'll confirm.

Jack DeAngelis

Caitlin147 said...

I have had very very tiny black shiny things on my bedclothes for months. I wash them all the time and it doesnt come off. At first, it doesnt look like anything. It kind of looks like ink spots, but nothing like that has been near my bed clothes. its really hard to get off. Like i said, its very tiny, shiny, black, and flat. When you try to pick it off or anything, it leaves an ink looking mark there. Any idea what it could be?

Jack DeAngelis, Ph.D. said...

Caitlin147,

Your description does not sound like insects or mites, both of which would be easily washed off. My guess is it is some kind of stain. Sometimes mold can leave behind a dark stain. Is the ceiling damp and moldy? Sorry I can't be more specific.

Jack DeAngelis

Evan said...

I have these very small black bugs that usually infest my basement. Ive asked around and others have said they come from outside and someone is bringing them inside. They usually hide in fabrics but are not carpet bugs. They do get on skin and when you remove them, it gets very itchy and a bump accumulates. Ive tried on numerous occasions to get rid of them but all have been miserable fails. Any thoughts?

biyu said...

Within the last month proudly only sence the heatwave started we have had a bug issue in the house there have been many centipedes and a few I don't know they seem centralised in the living room (where I sleep) by the couch and the tv tho there have also been many in the foyer and dining room and a few in my moms room these are all carpeted rooms all connected carpet as well there is also a vent between the dining room and my moms room I have not seen any in the bathroom or kitchen

Apart from the centipedes there were these little round (side-side like worms kinda? But hard?) black bodied things with White bellies a black centipede looking thing (I had only seen orange/red) and a long black thing that was on my arm that I would guess measured something like 1x3-5 cm

The room was somewhat messy before we cleaned and I bombed it about 5 times with a raid all purpose spray the room is presently fairly clean (my seeds are boxed up in plastic containers my computer is on something not sitting right on the floor the tv and tables all have "stuff" on them and are somewhat organised there is a stack of books on the floor if that contributes? The house thermostat was also showing it was at 80 degrees (f) in the dining room if that helps any? There are also 2 outlets that don't have covers one not far from where the most recent bugs were found alive (the 4 kills were made right near it) in the living room there's also another in the foyer if that can help?

About all I know is pound them with the raid and they will eventually die

(help please?)

klh213 said...

I keep seeing these small black bugs on my pillows during the day. Very round/oval shaped. Not flat like bed bugs with little legs under the shell. Its pretty hard to kill (sorry) with a hard body. Been seeing them everyday for about a week. I live in University Park, Illinois a small suburb of chicago. My bed is by a window but I am getting a bit concerned.


Please Help!

klh213 said...

I keep finding these little round black bugs crawling across my pillow case during the day. Usually one every day. Its black with a hard shell and round with legs under the shell. Doesn't look like a bed bug and is hard to kill (sorry) because of the hard shell. Less than a millimeter long. My bed is by a window and I live in a south suburb of Chicago Illinois. It has been very hot lately and I have noticed this bug quite frequently and now I am getting worried...

Please HELP!

Cartman2000 said...

klh213, I had one today as well. I live in Harpers Ferry, WV. ANy news???

Cartman2000 said...

Mine were carpet beetles! Only had two and they seem to be gone now.

arafsky2011 said...

i live in northern virginia. in my bedroom, i notice that there are tiny black bugs about 1/4 - 1/2 cm long and that do not bite. they ar round. its not an infestation because i only see a couple once in awhile. i do not know how they get in because they travel on my carpet near my wall. i have no cracks or anything for them to get into. i keep my room clean. i do notice that they tend to always show up when my room gets really hot. and sometimes musty.

please let me know if you can idenify these bugs and let me know how to get rid of them!!

cherryblast said...

I am having the same type of bug in my upper part of the house. Mostly, I am finding them in the bedrooms. I don't believe they ate carpet beetles. They are pretty small, have wings, but yet don't try to fly away. I haven't been bitten they are just a nusiance. Help I do not like bugs!

Emma_tuck said...

I found what looked like these guys but smaller, in my bed this morning!!! I thought it was just tiny black bits off my wooly socks but i looked closer and it had legs and noticed they where every where, stripped the bed and hoovered everything!! Thought they were bed bugs but they were more beetle like, and jet black. do they crawl into beds??? ps. i cheked my hair jus in case its nits lol

Katie said...

I also found lots of tiny round shiny beetles, smaller than a poppy seed, on our air mattresses when we camped out for 2 weeks. I wouldn't have noticed them except that I became worried when 3 of our family members developed a lot of red itchy bumps around our ears and neck.

Alcinda said...

I keep finding these teny tiny black bugs on our pillows. They are the size of the period on this page. They are not bed bugs as we had those several years ago and I know what they look like. These are smaller and don't bite but crawl on your face at night. I need to kn ow how to get rid of them.

Alcinda
Alogsdon@liberty.edu

Corrine Thompson said...

Im have small tiny black bugs infest my home &, its my whole house. I just noticed them about a week or so,me and my daughter been getting bitten. So I chose to not sleep at home til I figure what they are and how to get rid of them. When I went home yesterday I could feel them biting my lower shins and feet, and crawling. Ive seen them, theyre small black with antenna. When I try to grab one, it crawls so fast. They dont look like bed bugs, I know how they look. Someone please help me please I want to go home already.

James Mathews said...

I have these tiny black bugs they look to have 6 legs that are well cloaked by it's shell kind of like one of those rolly polly bugs except it's pure black and I find them in the cracks between the wall and the carpet. Any enlightenment? I'd like to know what I have and how serious it is.