Carpet beetles are also known as hide beetles. There are several species, but the black carpet beetle Attagenus unicolor (Brahm) and the variegated carpet beetle Anthrenus verbasci (Linnaeus) are the most common. The adults are up to 5 mm long, A. unicolor being entirely black and A. verbasci being mottled black and white dorsally. Usually the upper surface is covered with flattened overlapping hairs giving the insect a scaly appearance. The larvae are reddish to red brown with characteristic bands of stiff bristles, and stiff hairs at the hind end. Cast larval skins are usually found with the damage and are easy to identify.
The adults of some species are pollen- and nectar-feeders, others take the same food as the larvae, and some do not feed. Larvae feed on materials of mainly animal origin and can be very destructive. Natural food sources include relatively fresh dry carcasses, animal wastes and debris in birds’ nests. Eggs are laid on the food source in a dark, undisturbed area. Larvae feed for up to 9 months and moult several times before pupating. Adults emerge after about 3 weeks and survive for several weeks. The beetles are active all year.
In the home, carpet beetles attack woollen carpets and tapestries, silk or animal skin rugs, piano felts and felt hats, fur coats and toys and decor items of animal origin. Bare “grazed” patches, sandy frass and characteristic cast larval skins are evidence of carpet beetle activity. Larvae seek a protected place to pupate and may bore into soft timber, excavating holes up to 12 mm deep.
Stored items should be inspected regularly. Carpets and rugs should be regularly vacuum-cleaned, furniture moved around and piano felts and tapestries inspected and cleaned. Minor infestations can be controlled with an insecticide surface spray to the affected area.