|varied carpet beetle|
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.