The Varied Carpet Beetle, A New Pest In North West Homes

Varied Carpet Beetle

The Varied Carpet Beetle

A New Pest In North West Homes

The Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) is a relative newcomer to North West Britain, appearing here for the first time around seven or eight years ago, although it had previously been a common pest of more southerly counties.

It is a small beetle, usually not quite as big as a ladybird with a highly distinctive pattern from which its name derives.

The beetle itself is a pollen feeder and does no harm other than appear in houses in large numbers but it is the larvae of the beetle which causes problems, especially in museums where it can damage natural history specimens.

The larvae are known as ‘wooly bears’ due to their especially hairy appearance. These hairs are protection from a natural predator, the parasitoid wasp Laelius pedatus.

These larvae eat natural fibres pretty much in the same manner as moth larvae and the damage caused by the varied carpet beetle larvae can be mistaken for moth damage.

Most commonly damaged articles are carpets and natural fibre clothing.

Interestingly they are also known to damage musical instruments in long term storage, feeding on the felts and pads.

They tend to lay their eggs under baseboards (skirtings) and their larvae have a relatively long life cycle, often eating away at fabrics for up to three years before emerging as adults.

Spring is a common time to find these beetles indoors and they can often be seen on window ledges as they attempt to make their way outdoors.

They are commonly associated with birds’ nests and are often introduced to a property by nesting birds. Their eggs are designed to stick to the feathers of fledgling birds who will then transport them on their bodies until they themselves build nests.

Wooly Bear

Wooly Bear

The guard hairs of the larvae can cause problems for human beings as they are cast when the larvae pupate and if embedded in human skin can cause a bite-like reaction.

Pest controllers now have to consider this pest when dealing with ‘biting insect’ problems.

Regular cleaning and airing is probably the best defence against this pest and the vacuum cleaner is your best ally.

It is not possible to completely remove these insects from a home as they are now common in gardens and will fly in through open windows, but regular use of the vacuum cleaner should keep them in manageable proportions.

Bird nesting material should also be removed from attics and lofts and the area sprayed. Please be aware that it is not legal to do this with most birds whilst they are actually in the nesting periods.

If the beetle numbers become unacceptable a pest controller will be able to control their numbers using insecticide specifically licenced for the purpose although it may be necessary to carry out annual treatments in some cases.

Please be aware that despite the name they do not require the presence of carpets to breed, there is usually sufficient build up of natural fibres, hair, skin flakes etc under skirting boards and in gaps in wooden floorboards for these pests to breed.

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