A bed bug infestation is the pest problem that panics home and property owners the most. Although bed bugs are not linked to any diseases or health risks, they cause all kinds of mental distress because people fear being bitten in the middle of the night. This increased fear and awareness of bed bugs means that any small insect that may look sort of like a bed bug is often confused for one.
Many people confuse the bed bug and the carpet beetle, since these two bugs happen to look quite similar. The carpet beetle is very common in homes and properties and people continually ask if they have found the first signs of a bed bug infestation when they see a carpet beetle. Just like bed bugs, carpet beetles are small and flat as well, which makes them easy to mix up. So, what’s the difference between carpet beetles and bed bugs?
What is a Bed Bug?
A bed bug is a small flat insect that is very tiny and hard to see. They like to hide in small spaces not far from their food source. Bed bugs prefer to feed at night so they get their name from their tendency to breed and live in mattresses and in and around beds. However, these tiny parasites can also hide in sofas, carpets and other areas in close proximity to their food source.
Bed bugs have small, flat bodies making it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces about the width of a credit card. They hide during the day and do their biting and feeding at night. Their hiding places include bed clothing, mattress ribbing, carpet around the bed, behind the headboard, inside dressers, behind baseboards and wall coverings. Bed bugs typically stay anywhere humans and animals live.
Bed bugs are brownish-red in color and about the size of an apple seed. They will leave behind shed skins, fecal matter, and blood spots when an infestation occurs.
What is a Carpet Beetle?
Carpet Beetles end up in our homes somewhat accidentally, they prefer to be in the open air, but are attracted to light and because of their small size can easily fly in around cracks in windows and doors and can even find their way through window screens.
Carpet beetles are small, about 3mm in length, and flat. Much like bed bugs they are even oval-shaped when looked at from the top down. Black carpet beetles appear dark brown to black in colour. The varied carpet beetle in many ways does resemble the bed bug with irregular patterns of white, brown, and dark-yellow scales.
Carpet beetle larve look very different from their adult selves. They look like tiny furry caterpillars or fuzzy bugs with little spines all over them. Black carpet beetle larvae are covered with short, stiff hairs and have a bristle-like tail, and the varied larvae are covered with dense tufts, which extend upright as a natural defense.
When in larval form, the carpet beetle thrives on lint, hair, and debris accumulating under baseboards, inside floor vents and ducts. Wool carpet, oriental rugs and wool clothing items are common targets and can cause damage to natural fibers.
Bites and/or Rashes
Both bed bugs and carpet beetle can leave similar looking itchy, red blotches on your skin. Bed bugs feed on blood and leave red bite marks on your arms, torso, neck or body in the middle of the night. These can manifest as create red, itchy welts.
The carpet beetle does not feed on blood and in fact, does not bite at all. The red, itchy welts that some of us develop are due to the chemical trail the carpet beetle larvae leave behind, from their prickly little hairs and discarded skin casings. These can cause allergic reactions and dermatitis called "Carpet Beetle Dermatitis." The allergic reaction builds over time, and often, a carpet beetle infestation will go under the radar until someone begins having the reaction, which can take time to build up. At this point, the infestation will have grown quite large. By the time you realize there’s a problem, a sizeable infestation is likely already present in your home.
Dealing with Carpet Beetle in your home
The best way to combat carpet beetles in homes is to reduce their food sources. Rooms should be cleaned often enough to prevent the accumulation of hair, dander and other carpet beetle food materials. These insects are commonly found along the edges of wall-to-wall carpet where hair and dander accumulate; and in wool carpets under heavy furniture; and in heating system ducts.
Dealing with Bed Bugs in your home
Most people won’t be aware of their presence until the bed bugs have been in the room for weeks or even months – enough time for the population to grow and spread throughout the entire building.
An infestation usually starts out with a small number of bugs – perhaps only one or two. Due to their small size and secretive, nocturnal behavior, most people will not notice them until there are several bed bugs. This means that the original bugs have been laying eggs daily for quite a while. Bed bugs hide in tiny cracks and crevices – even inside the walls. They affix their eggs in these places with a sticky substance that keeps them from being vacuumed up.