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What Are These Tiny Black Bugs in My House?

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Carpet beetle

Carpet beetle

Flickr user Stanislav Sedov (CC license)

Question: What Are These Tiny Black Bugs in My House?

 

Lately, I've been finding tiny black bugs crawling around my home. I don't think they're bed bugs or fleas. They don't seem to bite, but I find bunches of them crawling around. What are these tiny black bugs in my house?!

 

Answer:

Did they crunch when you squashed them? As an insect enthusiast, I never recommend unnecessary bug squashing (and most bug squashing is unnecessary, since the vast majority of insects on the planet do us no harm whatsoever). That said, if you're searching for information about tiny black bugs in your house and have arrived here, I'm pretty certain you don't like the bugs taking up residence in your home and have already squashed a few. So, did they make a crunchy sound when you did? You may have noticed they left a black or brown smear when you crushed them, too.

If this sounds like your tiny black bugs, you've most likely got carpet beetles. Carpet beetles (Family Dermestidae) are actually very common in homes, though not often seen in numbers large enough to attract attention. As you might guess from their common name, carpet beetles feed on carpets and other products made from similar materials. They have the unusual ability to digest keratin, the structural proteins in animal or human hair, skin, or fur. In your home, they might be chomping on clothing made of wool or silk, or even feeding on cereals stored in your pantry. They tend to wander from their food source, though, so people usually notice them on walls or floors.

In general, carpet beetles are tiny, with many species measuring a mere 2-3 millimeters long – about the size of a pinhead. They vary quite a bit in color. Some are indeed, black, or dark enough in color to appear black when observed with the human eye. Others may be mottled, with spots of brown and black on a lighter background. Like many beetles, they are round or oval in shape, and convex in shape (like a ladybug). Carpet beetles are covered in tiny hairs, but this will be difficult to see unless you look at them very closely.

Carpet beetle larvae are elongated, and appear to be fuzzy or hairy. They leave their molted skins behind, so you may find small piles of fuzzy skins in infested pantries, closets, or drawers.

It's always a good idea to have an insect pest identified correctly before you try to treat or control them. If you aren't sure if you're tiny black bugs are carpet beetles, take a specimen to your local cooperative extension office for identification.

How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles

There's no need to worry about carpet beetles in your home. They don't bite, and won't cause structural damage to your home. They also reproduce slowly. In large numbers, they can do significant damage to sweaters and other clothing, or may infest pantry items. Don't use a bug bomb to rid your home of carpet beetles, as it will be ineffective. Professional extermination is rarely necessary for carpet beetles. You just need to do some thorough housecleaning in the areas where carpet beetles tend to live.

Clean your pantry. Check all of your food storage areas – cabinets, pantries, and extra storage areas in garages or basements – for live carpet beetle adults and larvae, and for shed skins. If you find any signs of the tiny black bugs around your food, discard the cereals, grains, flour, and other items from the locations where you see signs of infestation. Wipe down shelves and cabinets with your regular household cleaner. Please don't spray insecticides in your food storage areas! It's unnecessary and will cause you more harm than it will the insects. When you replace these food items, store them properly in airtight containers made of plastic or glass.

Now clean out your closets and dressers. Carpet beetles love wool sweaters and blankets, especially. If you find signs of carpet beetles – adults, larvae, or shed skins – take items that can't be laundered in water to your local dry cleaner. Wash anything else as you normally do. Wipe down the insides of drawers and the shelves in your closets with a household cleaner, not a pesticide. Vacuum the floor of your closet thoroughly, and use a crevice tool to get behind baseboards and in corners as best you can. If you can, store clothing you aren't using in airtight containers.

Finally, vacuum. Vacuum your upholstered furniture and all carpets thoroughly. Carpet beetles tend to hide under furniture legs, so move furniture and vacuum thoroughly underneath.

 

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