Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs

A Look at the Differences

Bed bugs leave a trail of panic and anxiety wherever they go. But what about their often-confused doppelganger the carpet beetle? Carpet beetles are one of several bugs that look similar to bed bugs – they’re roughly the same size, have similar habits and can even cause welts.

If you’ve found tiny beetle-like insects in your furniture, bedding, fabrics or skin, it’s worth reading on to identify which pest you have. While neither is desirable, bed bugs pose a significant health threat and can cause major damage to your home.

Bed Bug vs Carpet Beetle: The Differences

The most significant difference between a bed bug vs carpet beetle is that carpet beetles don’t bite, and bed bugs do. Bed bugs need blood to grow and reproduce. Like a mosquito, a bed bug will stick its elongated nose into your skin and extract your blood. This usually leaves red, swollen bite marks that can itch.

Carpet beetle “bites” are simply an allergic reaction to the hair on the beetle larva’s body. They don’t have teeth or bite but carpet beetle larvae are covered with spiky hair bristles, similar to a fuzzy caterpillar. If they crawl over a person who is allergic, these prickly hairs can cause a reaction that looks like a bite.

Instead of blood, carpet beetle larvae eat organic matter in the form of wool, fabric, carpet, leather and feathers. They are voracious for their size and capable of damaging rugs, clothing and upholstered furniture. This destructive appetite continues until the larvae are able to molt enough times to become full adults. Once a carpet beetle becomes an adult, it shifts its diet to pollen.

In addition to dietary differences, bed bugs and carpet beetles look different:

Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped and reddish brown or tan in color. Their bodies are flat and about the size of an apple seed. They don’t have wings and cannot fly. They are nocturnal and prefer quiet dark areas like under mattresses, behind loose wallpaper or in the seams of furniture or curtains. 

bed bug close up
bed bug close up

Carpet beetles are also oval shaped but are black, brown, white or orange and often have a molted pattern. They have wings and can fly to new locations. Adults are attracted to windows and areas of light. Larvae will congregate around carpet, rugs and other textiles that they feed on.

A carpet beetle on a white background.
A carpet beetle on a white background.

Signs of Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs

Here are the most common early signs of bed bugs or carpet beetles. If you see any of these in your home, contact a pest control specialist right away:

Carpet Beetles

  • Beetles flying or climbing walls
  • Damaged carpet, upholstery, clothing
  • Hairs falling out of trophy animals
  • Larvae and larvae skin sheds
  • Dead beetles in window sills

Bed Bugs

  • Bites
  • Blood stains on sheets or pillowcases
  • Rust colored stains on bed and furniture
  • Egg casings
  • Skin sheds
  • Musty Odor

How You Get Carpet Beetles or Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs and carpet beetles often travel in similar ways. Both are hitchhikers that latch on to clothes, luggage or furniture in order to find new feeding grounds.

Bed bugs are a notorious problem for travelers. They crawl into suitcases or purses and then spread through airports and hotels, ultimately arriving in your home. They will lay eggs and produce nymphs (baby bed bugs) that continue the cycle of feasting on your blood and creating more bed bugs.

Carpet beetles sometimes hitchhike. They also lay their eggs in food sources like carpeting and blankets. An adult might fly in through an open window or door and deposit their next generation in your bedroom. Carpet beetle nymphs will devour your carpets and fabrics until they reach adulthood and then fly off in search of pollen.

If You Think You Have Bed Bugs

If you’re concerned that you may have bed bugs in your home don’t hesitate to call a pest control professional like Assured Environments who is experienced with bed bug removal. Diagnosing the problem as soon as possible can save you money, furniture and peace of mind.

We’re happy to identify your bug infestation and discuss with you the possible courses of treatment. We even have a K9 bed bug unit dedicated to sniffing out hard-to-find bed bugs in your home or business.

Bed Bug Treatment Options

Bed bugs don’t like extreme heat or extreme cold. If you want to quickly kill the bed bugs you find on your clothes or bedding, put the contaminated items in a hot dryer for 30 minutes.

If your infestation goes beyond a few tainted items, there are several options for full home bed bug treatment:

  • Conventional treatment involves a combination of steam treatment, HEPA vacuuming and pesticide injection for cracks and crevices.
  • Thermal treatment is a completely non-chemical green option that essentially “bakes’ the bed bugs in your home by using forced air heaters to raise the temperature to an uncomfortable level.
  • Offsite fumigation is an option in which we take your contaminated items to our offsite facility for treatment. It allows for a more efficient method of removing bed bugs from personal items.

A pest control professional can assess the size and nature of your bed bug infestation and then recommend the appropriate method of remediation.

New York Bed Bug Identification and Control

We have an arsenal of tools and a crew of experienced professional to deal with your bed bug or carpet beetle problem. Call or contact Assured Environments today to make sure your home is pest free tomorrow.

Bed Bug and Carpet Beetle FAQ

Looking for more answers? If you don't find what you're looking for below, please contact Assured Environments. Our team would be happy to address your questions on the phone or in-person.

What’s the difference between carpet beetle and bed bug larvae?

Carpet beetle larvae look like fuzzy worms or caterpillars. Bed bugs don’t have larvae but instead have nymphs. These essentially look like smaller versions of adult bed bugs.

Do carpet beetles bite humans?

No. They are not capable of biting humans but you may experience a carpet beetle rash if you have an allergic reaction to their larvae.

Are bed bugs beetles?

No. To be classified as a beetle, bed bugs would need to have wings.

Can carpet beetles fly?

Yes, carpet beetles have wings and can fly in through windows and other openings. Look for them along window sills and door frames.

Are bed bugs black?

No. Bed bugs tend to be brown or reddish in color. Carpet beetles, however, can be black.