During a bed bug inspection in Old Bridge, NJ, I discovered a carpet beetle skin (technically, this outermost layer of an insect’s “exoskeleton” is called the “cuticle”). This layer serves as an insect’s external backbone and is necessary for protection against physical injury and water loss and for support. With most insects, after the egg hatches, the immature insect starts to feed and grow. Throughout its developmental stages, most insects, including beetles, bed bugs, and cockroaches, molt, that is, periodically shedding and replacing their rigid outer layer. Molting is the only way that insects can grow since, after a certain point, this hard outer cuticle won’t permit further expansion. An insect’s cuticle functions just like a shell and, eventually, the larva or nymph must shed this “overcoat” to continue developing.
Carpet beetles are often confused with other pests, especially bed bugs and fleas. Proper identification is key since treatment protocols and applications used to resolve these infestations are completely different. Homeowners, and even less experienced pest control technicians, sometimes misidentify the invading pest.
Although both bed bugs and carpet beetles molt, they have very little else in common. Bed bugs are external parasites that feed exclusively on the blood of mammals and birds, and, unfortunately, have a distinct preference for human blood. Carpet beetles, on the other hand, have a completely different diet. As their name suggests, they feed on natural fibers found in carpets and rugs. These bugs are not fussy eaters and also feed on silk, hair, feathers, fur, paper (including books), grains, spices, and pet food. Although carpet beetles do not bite like bed bugs, they can cause a similar red itchy welt due to an allergic reaction from the small prickly hairs on the outside of their body and both are very small bugs. Although bed bugs are small, carpet beetles are even smaller — an adult carpet beetle is no more than 1/8”. Bed bugs are reddish brown, flat, and shaped like an apple seed, Carpet beetles usually have white and yellow-brown scales and turfs of hair on their abdomen. A carpet beetle has several lines running horizontally from the midway point to the bottom while a bed bug does not.
For this homeowner, I vacuumed the skins and app[lied a light liquid application to kill any eggs or live pests that would be foraging around the nesting areas. For homeowners, no matter If you are uncertain as to whether you are dealing with bed bugs or carpet beetles, its always best to contact a pest control professional to identify and treat the problem. Both insects require a trained eye and a precise treatment plan depending on the size and scope of the infestation.