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Dermestid Beetles

Summary: Dermestid beetles can do great damage to woolens and furs and can be a costly pest to have around, but if you can invest some time and work, they can be effectively controlled.

Dermestid beetles are commonly known as carpet beetles, khapra beetles, leather or hide beetles, and larder beetles. The name "dermestid" comes from a Greek word for "skin." They have that name because they will eat all the soft tissue off of a skeleton, leaving it cleaner than most professional taxidermy chemicals.  Now if you happen to have a large collection of carcasses that you need to clean, I'd recommend that you grow a whole colony of carpet beetles and turn them loose in your workshop. However, if you're not a taxidermist or if your skeleton collection is already clean, you probably don't want a clan of beetles living in your living room.


Dermestid beetles don't just eat flesh; they also destroy things made of wool, silk, fur, or feathers, as well as any other natural fiber. Curtains, upholstery, clothing and, you guessed it, carpet are all endangered by dermestid beetles.  How can you protect your home from these beetles? Well, you could start by replacing all your carpets with tile or hardwood floors. But, you're probably going to have a hard time installing tile furniture and hardwood curtains. Fortunately, there are other ways to rid your home of dermestid beetles.  It'll take some work and careful cleaning, but in most cases, you can rid your home of these pests.

The first thing to do is to make sure you've got the right bug. Catch a few of the critters and spend some time examining them closely. Adult dermestid beetles are small (they grow to less than half an inch long), dark and hairy.  The larvae are usually brown with lighter yellow stripes and, like the adults, they are also hairy. 

The second step to dealing with dermestid beetles is getting rid of whatever is attracting them.  As awful as it sounds, an infestation of these beetles usually means that there's a dead-something nearby that they're feeding on. Check your home thoroughly for dead mice, birds, neighbor kids and small animals. Empty nests from birds or wasps provide food for the beetles.

Accumulations of pet hair also attract dermestid beetles. Also, make sure you don't have any food (especially meat!) stored improperly.

Dermestid larvae

Remove and clean up any carcasses you find, and properly seal and store any food that may be in the open. In many cases the beetles will simply leave if you're not providing anything for them to eat.

The third item on our dermestid beetle removal checklist is extermination. You can use a residual pesticide like Suspend SC or Tempo 1% Dust around the baseboards, tight places or crevices. Doorframes, window sills and other entry points to your home are also potential problem spots. Of course, you'll want to be sure to pick a safe pesticide if you have pets or small children in your home. Creating another carcass will only make things worse. You can use a spray to apply the insecticide to problem areas or you use a dust pesticide to treat your target zones. The two pesticides I've mentioned are designed for dermestid or carpet beetles.

The final step is to prevent a beetle sequel. If you've found the beetles or their larvae near clothing, wash it. Wash it in hot water or have it dry cleaned, if necessary. Just make sure you get all the bugs out of it. You can use naphthalene flakes, mothballs or PDB to help prevent the beetles from returning. The best part of prevention, of course, is to keep things clean. Vacuum pet hair, store food properly, keep any eye out for dead animals. In short, keep a clean home.

Now, there are places where the dermestid beetle cure goes beyond cleaning and spraying on your own. In cases like those, we would definitely recommend that you contact an exterminator and let a professional do battle with your beetles.

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