Most common types of carpet beetles in the UK

Beetles are adorable insects, as they come in many different sizes, colours and types. In their natural habitat they are very useful, with some species regulating the proliferation of pests and, consequently, diseases.

However, carpet beetles have congregated in large cities because of the high availability of food and shelter, and because they have no predator to regulate them. These insects have unfortunately become pests in many parts of the UK.

These insects are a very curious pest as they pose a threat in both adult and larval forms. They cause a great deal of damage to homes and commercial premises, regardless of the stage they are in.

It is likely that you have an infestation of these beetles in your home and wish to exterminate them. But to do this successfully it is important that you know your enemy, which is why in this article we show you the types of carpet beetles present in the UK.

Types of carpet beetle

Assorted carpet beetles

Anthrenus vesbasci

Known by its scientific name Anthrenus vesbasci, the varied carpet beetle can range in size from 1.7 to 3.5 millimetres. Its body shape is spherical and its colour consists of white, light brown and dark brown spots. Older specimens are usually grey.

The larvae feed voraciously on natural fibres and insect carcasses, as well as animal hair, feathers, etc., taking advantage of their keratin. They are called woolly bears because their bodies are covered with hair.

At the same time, the larvae have unevenly coloured plates (tergites), and the lamellae on their backs cover the segments that make up their bodies. The head of the larvae is light brown or orange, even when the tergites are dark in colour.

A carpet beetle infestation can be recognised by the fact that affected clothes and objects have small holes without web fibres, as is the case with moths. Powdery excrement or skins shed by the larvae may be found on infested items.

Adults feed on plant nectar, pollen, wheat, rice, oats and other packaged foods in your home. Other items such as leather or wool are favoured by these beetles, so your natural materials are at risk.

Carpet beetle skin beetle

Attagenus pellio

Scientifically named Attagenus pellio, this is one of the most common species of carpet beetle in Britain. The larvae of these insects are often found in old dwellings where birds’ nests are present, or in old museums.

During the larval stage, the larvae are up to 6.5 millimetres long when fully developed, torpedo-shaped and compressed from the head to the culmination of their abdomen, which ends in two tufts of orange hairs.

To reach adulthood, the larvae need between 6 months and 3 years to become adults (larvae-pupae-adults), the length of time they spend developing depending on the temperature and food conditions available.

Adult skin beetles have elongated oval bodies, with lengths between 4.5 and 6 millimetres. They are dark brown or black in colour, including two white spots on the wings. The base of the thorax is covered with white hairs. Females are larger than males.

It is a species that can be found in Europe, Australia or North America, but is basically native to Britain and the most common species of the genus Attagenus. Pest control experts report that they are considered a pest in southern England and Wales.

Their food sources are similar to those of the variegated carpet beetle, and when found in household cupboards and clothing shops, they bore holes in garments starting at the seams. Occasionally they may attack plant materials such as fibres or cereals.

Brown carpet beetle

Attagenus smirnovi

The scientific name of this beetle is Attagenus smirnovi. Because it has the name “smirnovi” it is known as the vodka beetle, and arrived in Britain in the 1970s. It became common as a pest of homes, shops and museums.

Its larvae are up to 8 millimetres long when fully developed, missile-shaped and taper from head to end of abdomen, ending in two brush-like tufts of hair. They resemble silverfish and avoid light at all costs.

Adults have oval bodies 2-5 millimetres long and 2-2.5 millimetres wide with a black base, while their elytra are brown or reddish-yellow. Females are larger than males. They have a single eye visible in the middle of the head.

The brown carpet beetle is generally diurnal, and is constantly on the move, flying and colonising new sites. It is usually found on window sills, as it searches for light and food. After this inspection, the females will lay their eggs.

Signs of infestation are evidenced by damage to museum property, clothing in homes and commercial establishments, as well as the carpets found in these places. Droppings and shedding of skin are other evidence of beetle infestation.

How to deal with any of these pests

Prevention is an effective solution rather than dealing with an infestation, because by the time a beetle infestation is discovered, it has caused sufficient damage. Homes and buildings should be cleaned regularly to prevent larvae from evolving.

Places such as skirting boards and piles of woollen carpets should be thoroughly checked, while rooms in the building should have fibre waste, bird’s nests, cobwebs, and dead insects discarded and removed as food sources for the beetles.

Hoovers are effective for cleaning up eggs, larvae, and any debris that attracts carpet beetles. You can also apply specialised insecticides, and place affected items in the freezer so that the bugs are killed by the cold temperatures.

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