The carpet beetle larvae start to feed as soon as they hatch. They are carrot shaped and heavily covered with setae, especially on their posterior end. The number of instars differ from 5–11 and in some cases reach up to 20. Larvae of the black carpet beetle Attagenus megatoma may grow up to ½ inch (12 mm) and be yellow to brown in color. Other types of carpet beetle are regularly 1/4 to 1 inch (6 to 25 mm) long and covered with dark setae. Certain species have distinctive tufts of setae extending from their posterior end. These beetles are attracted to soiled fabrics and crevices where dead insects may serve as a food source. The larvae of the carpet beetle are often referred to as “woolly bears” or “buffalo moths”.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Dermestids have a variety of habits; most genera are scavengers that feed on dry animal or plant material, such as skin or pollen, animal hair, feathers, dead insects and natural fibers. Members of Dermestes are found in animal carcasses, while others may be found in mammal, bird, bee, or wasp nests. Thaumaglossa only lives in the egg cases of mantids, while Trogoderma species are pests of grain.
Signs of Infestation
Carpet beetles feed on a wide range of animal-based items, including silk, leather, fur, wool and animal hair. As a result, carpet beetles may infest carpets, upholstered furniture, blankets, coats, comforters, wool, pillows and clothing. While carpet beetles rarely attack synthetic fabrics, they may feed on these items when they are soiled by perspiration, oil and food. Infestations can spread quickly.
Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen and nectar outdoors. The larvae may eat seeds, animal food and other milled products in the pantry or kitchen. Although adult carpet beetles can thrive inside or outside, females prefer to lay eggs where larval food sources are abundant. Carpet beetles enter homes through doors, windows and other openings, although they may be brought in on cut plants and flowers, as well. Some carpet beetles make their homes inside the nests of birds or other animals and can live in walls or chimneys, feeding on dead insects and animals.
Both adults and larvae prefer to feed in dark, undisturbed areas. As a result, identification of an infestation can prove difficult.
Moths typically have two pairs of wings covered in scales. They have a coiled proboscis and large compound eyes. Moths vary dramatically in appearance and size depending on the species. Some are massive and others tiny. Certain species of moths are brilliant with metallic colors while other are drab in browns or grey. Most indoor infesting moths are smaller than 2 cm wingspan and often are shades of grey or brown to reddish brown.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Moth behavior, diet and habits are as varied as their appearance. They range from beautiful pollinators to sneaking blood feeders. Some moths are major agricultural pests, while the majority complete their life cycle with no significant direct impact on man. They often are the food source for many animals, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, arachnids and even some plants. Indoors, homeowners most likely encounter moths that are either feeding on stored pantry items or on fabrics.
Although they are most famous for their ability to ruin wool clothing, webbing clothes moths are also attracted to a variety of other natural materials, including silk, hair, felt, fur and feathers. These moths tend to measure 2.5 to 5 cm in length and are buff colored.
They avoid light and are most commonly found in dark locations such as basements, attics and closets. Within these locations, moths can be found in the folds of fabrics or hiding in corners. Moths are capable of infesting a home long before their populations are noticed. As a result, substantial damage can occur to clothing or furnishings.
Webbing clothes moth larvae, not the adults, are responsible for destroying clothing. They prefer animal-based fabrics. Moths may consume sweaters, coats, blankets, carpets, decorative items, comforters, pillows and toys. They prefer not to feed on synthetic fibers, but will consume blended and stained fabrics.
While some are harmless and others are known to be beneficial for their silk and nutritional value, most moths and caterpillars are considered nuisance pests. A few, including the Io moth, the saddleback caterpillar moth and the southern flannel moth, are more concerning because the larvae can sting. Particularly in agricultural communities, some moth and caterpillar populations cause severe damage. Gypsy moth caterpillars are known to damage forested areas in the northern United States. Fruit farms suffer from codling moth infestations, while cabbages and mustard crops are often destroyed by the diamondback moth. Some moth larvae are known to consume cotton, tomatoes and corn. These larvae are commonly referred to as cotton bollworms, tomato fruitworms and corn earworms. Some moth species are also known to eat fabrics made from natural fibers, such as wool and silk.
Signs of Infestation
Moth signs depend greatly on the species. Indoors, moths are detected by the adults as they fly about the room or rest on surfaces. Fabric-feeding moths are detected when feeding damage to fabrics is discovered. Some will also leave webbing, cocoons and even droppings as evidence of their activity. Stored product moths may leave behind damaged food items, webbing and droppings as well. Some moths will leave their food source when it time to pupate. The pupae may be seen in corners of cabinets, drawers or walls.