This fact sheet can be used for identification of the varied carpet beetle should your collection become affected by pests. Included below are photographs of the adult and larva and information on the life cycle, how to spot signs of damage and the materials likely to be affected and similar species of pest.
Latin name: Anthrenus verbasci
The adults are small round beetles covered with grey and gold scales. They have a prominent head with clubbed antennae. Adult size: 2 mm-3 mm long.
The larva are short and fat with bands of darker hairs. Often called ‘woolly bears’. Larvae size: 0.5 mm-5 mm long.
Adult beetles fly well in warm weather and may frequently be found on window sills. In the UK they are often found outside in late spring and early summer where they mate on flowers, such as hogweed and spirea.
Females lay batches of eggs secreted in cracks and crevices. When the larvae first hatch they are extremely small, less than 0.5 mm, and they can gain entry to cupboards and drawers through very small cracks. When they are larger, they will wander around and may attack more than one object.
The larvae may take 1 or 2 years to complete their growth and each new cycle starts after they pupate and change into adults in the Spring.
Signs of damage
As the larvae grow, they leave empty hairy cast skins, or husks, which may be the first signs of beetle attack.
They produce pellets of excreta, called frass, which may be found under or near infested objects.
The larvae are voracious feeders and will rapidly make neat holes in woolen textiles, animal specimens, fur and feathers.
They will also graze on animal glue in book bindings and picture frames. Clean cotton materials are not normally attacked, although larvae may bore through this on their way out of a feather cushion.
Carpet beetles are often found in natural situations such as birds’ nests, wasp nests and animal burrows. Once established, they can be difficult to eradicate because the larvae can forage widely and may take some years to complete development.