They look different, have different diets and develop differently. Perhaps the only thing that carpet beetles and bed bugs have in common, besides their six legs, is their preference for indoor spaces. Carpet beetles belong to the Dermestid family of beetles (Coleoptera). Immature, or larval, beetles have different food and habitat preferences than their adult counterparts. Bed bugs belong to the Cimicidae family of true bugs (Hemiptera) and develop from egg to nymph to adult, with the same feeding behavior and habits throughout their life cycle.
Like all beetles, carpet beetles have a pair of hardened wings, called elytra, which cover and protect another set of membranous wings. Adult carpet beetles are small insects, growing up to 1/8 inch long. They are oval shaped and vary in color from black to brown with a mottled pattern. Carpet beetle larvae are typically brown to orange, worm-like, hairy creatures, approximately 1/4 inch long. Bed bugs are wingless, flat, oval insects with reddish brown coloring. Adults reach lengths up to 1/4 inch. Immature bedbug nymphs resemble adults, but are smaller and lighter in color.
At all stages of their development, bed bugs feed on human and animal blood. Bed bugs find their host at night by detecting carbon dioxide and heat. Nymphs need a blood meal before each of their five molt stages and females need blood prior to laying eggs. Adults feed once every week for their lifetime, but can survive a year without eating. Adult carpet beetles feed on nectar and pollen outdoors, while their larvae are pests of stored food, natural fabrics and, of course, carpets. They avoid synthetic fibers, but can find food sources throughout the home, including pet hair, lint, feathers, wool, leather, fur and silk.
Bed bugs stay where they have access to blood, with beds being a favored habitat. They hide along mattress seams and bindings as well as in crevices of walls and furniture. Bed bugs arrive in the home on luggage, furniture, laundry and other items brought in from infested sites. Hotels, apartments and other places with human traffic are common sources of bed bugs. Adult carpet beetles enter the home from outside and lay eggs on a potential food sources, such as a carpets, clothing or upholstered furniture. After hatching, the larvae feed in dark, protected areas for several months. Closets, attics and storage containers are preferred habitats for carpet beetles.
Carpet Beetle Management
Look for shed larval casings and insect droppings around damaged fabrics to confirm a carpet beetle problem. Wash or dry clean clothing and blankets before storing because beetles are attracted to the human odors these items may contain. Remove eggs, larvae and adults with regular vacuuming of carpets, furniture and baseboards. Dispose of vacuum bags and lint immediately to prevent reinfestation. Check cut flowers for adult beetles before bringing them indoors and keep window screens closed and well sealed. Regular inspection and thorough vacuuming is usually enough to bring carpet beetles under control.
Bed Bugs Management
Bed bug populations are difficult to control since a female bed bug can lay more than 200 eggs in her lifetime. Itchy bites on your skin may be the first indication of a bed bug problem. Check along the seams of mattresses for small, rust-colored stains or bugs the size of apple seeds. Immediately launder sheets and blankets with a hot dryer cycle. Vacuum all sides of the infested mattress and surrounding area. It might be necessary to dispose of infested mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture to completely eradicate the pests. Severe infestations require treatment by a professional pest control company.
- University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Carpet Beetles
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Bed Bugs Appearance and Life Cycle
- Colorado State University Extension: Bat Bugs, Bed Bugs and Relatives
- Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences: Bed Bugs
- UC Statewide IPM Online: Carpet Beetles
- Photo Credit trgowanlock/iStock/Getty Images
About Blister Beetle Bites
Have you been bitten by a blister beetle? Do you know someone who has? There are 2,500 species of blister beetles whose...
What Bugs Live in Clothes & in Beds?
Various bugs tend to inhabit or merely visit our beds and clothes. Some will quietly sip human blood at night, while others...
Are Black Carpet Beetles Dangerous?
The black carpet beetle is a small insect ranging in color from black to reddish brown and is a common household pest...
How to Kill Bed Bugs in Carpet
Although bed bugs are notorious for infesting bedding and mattress, these are not the only places that they live. It is not...
How to Get Rid of Bed & Carpet Bugs
If you're finding yourself itchy and covered with tiny bites after you sit on your furniture or carpet, you may have an...
How to Kill Bugs in Carpets
Inside a carpet considered immaculate to the human eye is home to bugs: fleas, dust mites and bed bugs. Bugs can carry...
How to Identify Carpet Bugs & Maggots
Home pests can cause a lot of damage to furniture, clothes and other fabrics while creating health hazards for people and pets...
What Are Carpet Bugs?
Carpet beetles, also known as carpet bugs, include several different species of small beetles in the family of dermestids. Found in the...
Common House Bugs That Bite
No matter how clean you keep your house, you will still have the occasional bug or two inside. Most bugs are mere...
Large Black Beetles Found in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has a diverse landscape of urban, suburban and farmland habitats. Within the insect microcosm, black beetles live and feed on leaves...
Beetles That Sting
When asked what we might infer about the mind of a hypothetical creator of life on Earth, renowned biologist J.B.S. Haldane famously...
Differences Between Bedbugs & Chiggers
Chiggers and bedbugs are insects with bites that can make life miserable. Although both insects feast on human blood, many key differences...
What Bugs Hide in Your Carpeting?
Not many people enjoy the sight or feeling of knowing that bugs are hiding somewhere in their home. For those homeowners who...