These little things are really starting to bug us.
March 30, 2010 12:21 PM   Subscribe

We think we have carpet beetles! Help!

Last week, my partner found a small beetle lurking on the windowsill of our small, two-bedroom apartment. We're almost certain it was a varied carpet beetle (it looked just like this). Since then, we've been finding them fairly frequently—once a day, on average, and my partner found one larva the other night. We haven't found any noticeable damage, but as my partner is a knitter, she's particularly concerned.

Since finding the first couple, we did a massive spring cleaning of our apartment, vacuuming everywhere, including behind furniture, in closets, and everywhere we could possibly reach. We're still finding the bugs though, and can't figure out where they are coming from or going to—they've shown up in every room in our home, but we haven't seen any visible damage to any clothes, nor found them in any foodstuffs.

So, the obvious question: what can we do? We're going to clean and vacuum-seal our natural fibre clothes, but we don't want this infestation to get worse, and we don't want little bugs in our apartment. Is there a readily available and safe product we can use that will get rid of them, even if we can't find the "nest"? Do we have to get an exterminator? How much would that cost for a 2-bedroom apartment? (We're both poor graduate students.) Would it be our responsibility to pay, or the landlord's?

We live in Southern Ontario, and are desperate for help!
posted by synecdoche to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
We have them in our old house, and with so many cracks and crevices I doubt we'll ever be rid of them. I am also a knitter, and have been really concerned about them eating my sweaters or my wool stash. However, the only time that happened was when I had a ball of spinning fiber that had somehow escaped onto the floor of a dark closet where it sat undisturbed for months on end.

Basically I store my wool in airtight bags and containers up off the floor and haven't had any trouble with the main part of my stash. I periodically check through my stash just to be sure everything's kosher in there.

They don't seem to care about cotton, for what it's worth...
posted by cabingirl at 12:47 PM on March 30, 2010

w/r/t responsibility to pay: check your lease, but generally infestations (such as this) are (1) a code violation and (2) required to be exterminated by the landlord.

good luck!
posted by Flamingo at 12:54 PM on March 30, 2010

Absolutely call your landlord. Renting you an infested apartment is his problem, not (just) yours.
posted by fontophilic at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2010

The adult carpet beetles generally come into your house from outdoors, lay their eggs and then look for a way to escape. When you find them on window sills, they have usually died there or are dying after laying their eggs. The adults and larvae hate light, ventilation and being disturbed. The best defense in keeping them at bay is to clean well and frequently. Vacuum regularly under your bed the floor of your closet and edge vacuum the corners and crevices.

Do you have wool carpets? These might be the source of the problem and need to be removed or replaced. What about taxidermy or old fur items? Is there any possibility of a dead bird or animal in an attic or crawl space in your house? Carpet beetles love those. They also like protein based glues in old books, so if you've got an old book collection, inspect the bindings.

If you buy second hand clothing or textiles made of wool or silk, you might want to drop the item off at the dry cleaners before it enters your home. Or if you've got access to a deep freeze, you could stick well wrapped items in the freezer for a couple of cycles to kill any critters. Lots of thrift store shoppers and vintage lovers accidentally end up with carpet beetle problems by bringing home infested clothing.

Good luck, I can empathize with the horror you must feel at having your woolens threatened by these pests.
posted by pluckysparrow at 5:04 PM on March 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Cold storage has been long used to protect articles attacked by carpet beetles. Clothing, coats and sweaters stored at 40 to 42°F will be protected for long periods of time. Freezing has also been used to kill carpet beetles. Infested materials should be placed in plastic bags and loosely packed in a chest freezer at -20°F for three days. Reducing the air in the bag eliminates the formation of ice. Heat has also been used to kill or repel carpet beetle larvae. Exposure of infested items to 105°F for four hours is sufficient; placing infested items in the hottest rays of the sun causes larvae to abandon the fabric."
posted by Exchequer at 9:45 PM on March 30, 2010

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