What Do Carpet Beetles Eat? Their Diet Explained.

close up of a carpet beetle
© Tomasz Klejdysz/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kristen Holder

Published: March 7, 2022

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Carpet beetles are small oval insects that can be found in the Americas, the Middle East, North Asia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. They’re a common house beetle that is considered more of a nuisance than a danger since they harm possessions, not humans and animals.

They like temperate regions and are famous for ruining entomology, clothing, book, and taxidermy collections at museums. Carpet beetles show up as common house pests in many homes as they can wreak havoc by harming clothing, curtains, carpets, and furniture.

Carpet beetle larvae cause the damage you may see in your home. Let’s look at what carpet beetles eat as larvae and as adults so we can better understand why they chow down on our possessions.

What Do Carpet Beetles Eat?

Carpet beetles eat pollen, nectar, wool, and fur.

Carpet beetles are herbivores that eat a wide variety of animal and plant-based products including wool, fur, flour, and pollen, depending on where they are in their lifecycle. Adult carpet beetles are supposed to live outside in nature where they feed on nectar and pollen, however, they’ll make use of similar resources in your home if they’re stuck inside.

Below is a list of foods adult carpet beetles eat:

  • Pollen
  • Flower Arrangements
  • Potpourri
  • Nectar

Carpet beetle larvae that are hatched in your home will eat a variety of animal-based products which causes the damage that is so characteristic of this insect. Larvae require different foods than their parents, and they’re the ones that cause destruction in and around your home in the search for consumables. They look for keratinous foods which is an animal protein found in many household goods.

Carpet beetle larvae eat:

  • Spices
  • Cereal
  • Flour
  • Felt
  • Feathers
  • Bird Nests
  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Animal Hides
  • Leather
  • Animal Fur
  • Dog Food
  • Noodles
  • Cornmeal
  • Dead Insects

Adult carpet beetles try to lay their eggs in places where their larvae will have constant access to food. This is how the larvae end up in your dry food storage or in your stored sweaters.

Carpet beetles are even known to eat synthetic material if it’s dirty enough. They’re attracted to any buildup of food, oil, and sweat from humans and animals.

Are Bed Bugs Carpet Beetles?

No, bed bugs are a lot different than carpet beetles. They are nocturnal and get their nutrition from biting humans and animals. Carpet beetle larvae leave behind a trademark husk they shed while moving around to feed, whereas you won’t find skins with bed bugs. Carpet beetle larvae bristles can induce an allergic reaction in some people. This causes a rash that looks very similar to bed bug bites.

Carpet beetles’ mouths are specifically designed for plants and fibers. For the most part, carpet beetles don’t harm humans because they can’t bite. They don’t have teeth that can pierce human skin since they feed on nectar and pollen located outdoors.

Black carpet beetles that live in a mattress can look like bed bugs, but one of the distinguishing factors is that they’re larger. While carpet beetles prefer darkness, they aren’t necessarily nocturnal, so you’ll see them crawling around and making a snack out of your bedsheets any time the lights are low.  

Where Do Carpet Beetles Live?

Carpet beetles live in nature wherever they can find an abundant food supply. They’ll live in flat grassy areas as well as in the woods. They can also live in gardens and lawns surrounding a home.

Carpet beetles like all sorts of dark places around the home such as deep in the carpet and in furniture crevices. They’ll also take up residence in vents, attics, pantries, under floorboards, and in attics. Anywhere that’s dark, undisturbed, and cool is the perfect place for carpet beetles to hang out.

Infestations happen quickly because eggs are especially hard to see. That’s because they’re so small. The biggest adult carpet beetles are only 3/16 inches long and the eggs are much smaller at only 3/64ths of an inch. This makes them easy to go unnoticed. The larvae are easier to notice because they are about 1/3 of an inch long and look like little caterpillars.

Carpet beetle next to match tip

Carpet beetle larvae are larger than adult beetles.


How Do I Stop Carpet Beetles From Coming Into My Home?

You can keep carpet beetles from getting into the home by making sure all outside gaps are sealed. Adult carpet beetles can fly, so they can get in through holes in windows and doorframes. They can also ride inside on loose leaves or flowers that make it into the house. A chimney cap will help a lot if you have a fireplace because it keeps detritus from falling into your house that may or may not contain carpet beetles.

Flypaper strips that you can buy at almost any home goods store work well against carpet beetles if they’re placed near windows. You can also set up pheromone traps in infested areas like a closet. Pheromones are what insects use to communicate with one another, so they’re drawn to this trap because they think other carpet beetles are signaling them.

Carpet beetles love dirty clothes, so don’t leave unwashed laundry laying around. Keep all dry food items in your cupboard in airtight containers. Dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming are effective against carpet beetles and can prevent a reinfestation.

You know you have carpet beetles in your home when bare spots start appearing on rugs, tiny holes start appearing in your clothing, and little holes appear on book pages. You’ll probably also spot dead adults and the larvae’s shed skins.

Carpet Beetle Eggs - larva in carpet

Carpet beetle larvae are what you’ll find eating your belongings.

©Tyler Fox/Shutterstock.com

How Can Carpet Beetles Help with Sustainability?

Although they’re annoying, lab-grown carpet beetles may have a role in sustainability in the future. One of the byproducts of the meat industry is an excess of feathers, and feathers take a long time to break down when left to decompose. Carpet beetle larvae on the other hand can eat through feathers and turn them into insect protein.

Insect protein may be the wave of the future because it’s much more sustainable than chicken, pork, and beef. Wouldn’t it be awesome if a household pest was morphed into a tool for change?

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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