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What are these paper-eating bugs in my wooden drawers, and how can I get them out?
August 13, 2011 6:13 PM   Subscribe

What are these bugs in my wooden chest that eat paper (and cat toys)? How can I get rid of them for good?

A few months ago I cleared out a wooden chest of drawers that had sketchbooks in it. There were a bunch of small, brown insects that seemed to be eating the paper. I wiped the drawers out with some kind of household cleaner, and transported the (now empty) drawers to my new apartment.

A week ago, I saw one of the bugs on top of the drawers while I was cleaning. I opened the drawer, and a bunch of the things were all over the only item in there, a feather cat toy. Once again,wiped it out and threw away the cat toy. I couldn't see any more, but I left a single piece of paper to see if I could draw out stragglers. Sure enough, this week one or two were hanging out around the edge of the drawer (although not, oddly enough, on the paper itself).

I took a picture, but my cameraphone is not so good for small details, so it's basically a fuzzy blob. Still, you can see the size vs my thumb & approximate shape.

I did a search on "bugs in wood furniture". They're not powder-post beetles (wrong shape). One suggestion was bedbugs, which freaked me right out, but I don't think that can be right. I mean, I would have noticed bites by now, and there don't seem to be any signs of them in my mattress. Plus, they're not quite the right shape and I don't think bedbugs eat paper or whatever fake feathers are made of. (do they?) They're also not silverfish or book lice. Further searches on "paper eating bugs" just got me results on the topic of bugs as food, which I guess would be one way to get rid of them, although not my preferred method.

Further details:
-I'm in Southern California.
-No idea what kind of wood the drawer is made of.
-They don't seem to be eating the wood, but they're definitely hiding in the places where the different pieces join, and obviously I can't see in there. There may be more damage than I see.
-They move at a pretty decent, but not too fast, pace when poked at or if I shine a light on them, but they don't seem to move unless bothered. The ones on the feather didn't seem disturbed at all when I picked it up to throw it out.
-They're dark brown with very light bands, which I think indicates segmentation. They seemed to 'curl' around the strands of the feather, although they don't roll up into balls like pillbugs/rolly-pollies.
They can flatten themselves a bit, making squishing them difficult. They have two little 'hairs' on their butts like reverse antennae, the same way crickets or silverfish do (only very very thin and tiny). There are also larvae, which are about half the size, and look like every other larvae I've seen.
-Can't see a distinct head/abdomen division.
-Might have more than six legs, but they're so tiny I can't tell, and I don't have a magnifying glass handy.
-They don't seem to have spread to other parts of the house, although the one that was on top of the drawer makes me nervous.

What the heck are these things? (Please not bedbugs.) I want to use the drawers, but these things seem to be spontaneously generating from the wood! How can I get rid of them, and know for sure they're gone?
posted by insufficient data to Science & Nature (8 answers total)
 
Carpet beetle larvae? Check Google images, they come in lots of different-looking varieties.
posted by phoenixy at 6:19 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was also going to suggest carpet beetle.
This page has some good basic information: http://www.simplepestcontrol.com/carpet-beetle-control.htm
posted by ilikemethisway at 8:30 PM on August 13, 2011


You may be able to identify it here.
posted by gudrun at 8:31 PM on August 13, 2011


Ah, hit post too soon. Click on this link, and then click on Image Library.
posted by gudrun at 8:35 PM on August 13, 2011


Wow, six minutes! Yep, those pictures look like a pretty close match. They don't look as hairy, but maybe I just can't see the hairs. Looks like they're hard to get rid of, too, lovely.

It's weird, though, that they haven't spread out to places with more fabric to eat- maybe I just haven't noticed. I'll do an apartment sweep this weekend, I guess.

None of the resources online seem to have any advice for getting these things out of furniture- I can't really vacuum them out of the creases in the wood. Has anyone had experience with these things? Are they really as bad as some of the websites indicate? I'd rather not give up on the chest of drawers if I don't have to- it has sentimental value, and is also super heavy- but the idea of these things getting into my clothes and food... ughh. Although they've been here for five months, you'd think if they were going to, they would already. I don't know.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by insufficient data at 8:51 PM on August 13, 2011


Couldn't you try sprinkling diatomaceous in the drawers? It also may be a good idea to seal the furniture for a while until the beetles are dead, as they may spread to other (more tasty) parts of your abode.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:07 AM on August 14, 2011


Like KokoRyu, I would probably be inclined to try diatomaceous earth to treat them.
posted by gudrun at 1:06 AM on August 14, 2011


Brush the DE into all the cracks and crevices...that's where they will harbor and where you can kill them...
posted by Exchequer at 8:21 AM on August 14, 2011


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