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Ask Angie: How to eliminate carpet beetles

Angieslist.comAugust 30, 2013 

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Angie Hicks

HANDOUT — MCT

Dear Angie: How do I eliminate carpet beetles? Is there something that could have attracted them in the first place? — S.D., Hartford, Conn.

Answer: Highly-rated pest control experts tell me that, much like bed bugs, carpet beetles often hitch a ride into your home through an external source, such as from an infested laundromat or hotel room. They even can come through a door or an open window (yes, they can fly), hitch a ride on flowers or used furniture you bring into the house, or a host of other items.

Once they've found a way inside, they're difficult to get rid of without the help of a professional. If you find the beetles' larvae, it's likely they've been in the home for a while, which could signal an infestation. The larvae of beetles have a healthy appetite for thick carpet fibers, hence their name: animal fibers, wool, hair silk, furniture, blankets and other household fabrics.

Carpet beetles are about 1⁄8 to 3⁄16 inch in size and look like small, fuzzy worms or little dark beetles. But don't be fooled by their size; they can cause quite a bit of damage.

Start by looking for a possible source of the infestation, where a higher proximity of the beetles and their fecal pellets are. Throw away any infested clothes or area rugs, and wash what you can salvage.

Then, give your home a good vacuuming and cleaning, especially behind the headboards of beds, the dryer vent, behind the refrigerator and in the pantry. Boxes of flour, grains, nuts and cereal are just some places they like to hang out. If you still notice the bugs after cleaning, call a professional, as you might have a serious infestation.

A professional can eliminate carpet beetles through traditional pesticides or pesticide-free services, which include heat treatment or steam cleaning. A heat remediation would consist of heating the entire home to 130 degrees for up to four hours to kill the insects. Other control options might include carpet beetle pheromone traps and exclusion — sealing holes and cracks around your home — as carpet beetles are capable of spreading through the walls. Depending on the severity of the infestation, a chemical treatment spray might need to be put down twice.

Treatment can start at $250.

A pest management professional with experience treating carpet beetles will help you find the source of the infestation, select products labeled for carpet beetles and apply them in cracks and crevices known to harbor the pest.

The sooner you notice a problem, the easier it will be to eliminate it. Keep in mind, just one adult carpet beetle can lay as many as 50 eggs. The larvae stage of the carpet beetle can last three months to three years, and adults can live two weeks to a few months. They have the ability to hang around for a while if your home is left untreated.

Although it can be difficult to stop carpet beetles from entering your home, cleaning regularly can slow their spread. Because carpet beetles feed on food, skin cells and other debris in the carpet, make sure to vacuum regularly, and keep all food in your home properly sealed. Clean any secondhand furniture before it is brought into your house, and have your carpets professionally cleaned once a year.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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