It's safe to say that Australia has more than its fair share of unpleasant little creepy crawlies, and even the ones that aren't actively trying to kill you can still cause a world of problems. Black carpet beetles may not be particularly scary, but these voracious insects can rapidly cause serious damage to your rugs and carpets (as well as other soft furnishings), so black carpet beetle infestations must be dealt with swiftly and effectively to minimise the damage and expense that they can cause.
How can I recognise a black carpet beetle infestation?
While several kinds of carpet beetle can invade your home to chew on your shag, black carpet beetles are rather distinctive, with their eponymous shiny black carapaces. However, it is not the adult beetles that cause damage to carpets -- instead, adult beetles often come into the warmth and safety of your home to lay their eggs. The larvae that hatch from these eggs are the real culprits, and these tiny, maggot-like creatures will eat a variety of organic fibres found in carpets and rugs.
The damage that these larvae cause is generally localised to a single patch of carpet, although this damaged patch can grow rapidly without attention. This can help you distinguish carpet beetle damage from damage caused by other insects, such as clothes moths, which tend to damage fabrics in small, seemingly random areas. Black carpet beetle larvae also tend to shed their carapaces after feeding, and finding brown, cylindrical 'casts' of shed skin can be helpful for identifying black beetle damage.
How can I remove black carpet beetles from my carpets and rugs?
Black carpet beetles are tough insects that reproduce rapidly, and can be more difficult to tackle than other fabric pests. However, there are a number of effective measures you can take to get them out of your carpets and rugs before they have a chance to deal serious damage:
- Vacuuming: While black carpet beetles and their larvae are often too durable to be killed by vacuuming, it can be a useful way to collect them before releasing or exterminating them elsewhere. Use your vacuum at its highest setting, and be particularly thorough in corners and around furnishings, as beetle larvae tend to shelter in these less exposed areas. If possible, use specialised attachments to vacuum other softer furnishings, such as couches and cushions. Remember to empty your vacuum immediately before the beetles have a chance to escape.
- Thermal control: Carpet beetle larvae cannot tolerate extreme temperatures, and placing smaller rugs and mats in your freezer temporarily can be surprisingly effective. Alternatively, leaving your infested rugs outdoors on a hot day can cause larvae to overheat and perish -- place them in a black bin bag or other airtight, heat-insulating container to maximise effectiveness.
- Chemical control: While ordinary carpet shampoos and cleaners may be useful for removing small, nascent infestations, specialised insecticides may be necessary to tackle larger beetle attacks. Professional pest control services sell a number of effective insecticides that are specifically formulated for use against carpet beetles -- some are even impregnated with beetle pheromones to attract larvae to the insecticides more quickly. Alternatively, boric acid solutions and powders can be used to great effect, but be very careful if you decide to use them yourself -- leaving boric acid on carpets for too long can bleach them, while delicate fibres and organic dyes can be irreparably damaged. Talk to a pest control expert about carpet cleaning services.
- Fumigation: If a black carpet beetle infestation is not responding to smaller-scale treatments, or has spread to the carpets of several rooms in your home, you may wish to consider having your home fumigated by pest control services. While this can be moderately expensive and disruptive to your home life, it is the best and most thorough way of ensuring that an infestation is done away with permanently. Alternatively, pest control services can place infested carpets and rugs in off-site fumigation vaults, allowing you to continue using your home during the fumigation process.