Carpet Beetle vs Bed Bug: Key Differences and Solutions

folder_openHemiptera, Insecta
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Carpet beetles and bed bugs are common household pests that can cause discomfort and damage to our belongings.

While both insects can be a nuisance, it is important to understand their differences to effectively deal with infestations.

Carpet beetles are small, rounded beetles that are typically 3-5 millimeters in size.

They have dark-colored or patterned wings and their larvae have alternating light and dark stripes, covered with tiny hairs.

Adult carpet beetles feed on pollen and nectar, while their larvae are notorious for damaging fabrics, carpets, and clothing as they feed on natural fibers and sometimes stored foods.

On the other hand, bed bugs are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals.

They are reddish-brown, wingless, and range in size from 1mm to 7mm.

Bed bugs are commonly found in the seams of mattresses, chairs, couches, and curtains, as well as in electrical receptacles and appliances.

They can cause discomfort due to their bites and can also induce allergic reactions in some individuals.

Carpet Beetle vs Bed Bug: Identification

Appearance

Carpet Beetles:

  • Adults: Hard outer shell, club-shaped antennae
  • Larvae: Dense tufts of hair, elongated and bristly appearance
  • Examples: Black Carpet Beetle, Varied Carpet Beetle, Common Carpet Beetle

Bed Bugs:

  • Adults: Oval, flat bodies, visible wings
  • Nymphs: Smaller, lighter in color, similar shape to adults

Carpet Beetle vs Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Size

Carpet Beetles:

  • Adults: About 1/5 inch long
  • Larvae: Similar length to adults

Bed Bugs:

  • Adults: 4-5 mm long
  • Nymphs: Range from 1.5-4.5 mm long (depending on their stage)

Color

Carpet Beetles:

  • Adults: Solid brown to blackish or irregular pattern of white, brown, and orange scales
  • Larvae: Brown or tan with dark stripes

Bed Bugs:

  • Adults: Reddish-brown
  • Nymphs: Lighter, translucent to yellowish-brown
 Carpet BeetlesBed Bugs
Size (Adults)About 1/5 inch long4-5 mm long
Size (Larvae/Nymphs)Similar length to adults1.5-4.5 mm long
Color (Adults)Brown to blackish or irregular pattern of white, brown, and orange scalesReddish-brown
Color (Larvae/Nymphs)Brown or tan with dark stripesTranslucent to yellowish-brown
Appearance (Adults)Hard outer shell, club-shaped antennaeOval, flat bodies, visible wings
Appearance (Larvae)Dense tufts of hair, elongated and bristlySmaller, lighter in color, similar shape to adults.

Main Differences Between Carpet Beetles and Bed Bugs

Feeding Habits

  • Carpet Beetles: Feed on fabrics, hair, lint, and other organic materials
  • Bed Bugs: Feed on human and animal blood

Carpet beetles primarily consume organic materials, especially those containing animal-based fibers like wool and hair.

Bed bugs, on the other hand, are parasitic insects that feed on humans and animals while they sleep.

Varied Carpet Beetle

Behavior

  • Carpet Beetles: Active during the day, often hidden in dark areas
  • Bed Bugs: Nocturnal, hiding near sleeping areas

Carpet beetles are active during the day but tend to hide in dark areas such as behind furniture.

In contrast, bed bugs are nocturnal creatures that mostly hide near sleeping areas during the day.

Diet

 Carpet BeetlesBed Bugs
Infant DietOrganic materialsBlood
Adult DietPollen and nectar (from plants)Blood

The diet of carpet beetles and bed bugs differs significantly.

Carpet beetle larvae feed on organic materials, moving on to pollen and nectar as adults.

Bed bugs, however, feed on blood throughout all life stages.

Bites and Allergic Reactions

  • Carpet Beetles: May cause a rash in sensitive individuals through contact
  • Bed Bugs: Leave itchy, red bite marks on the skin

Although carpet beetles don’t bite, their larvae’s bristly hairs may cause an allergic reaction or rash in some people.

Bed bug bites, on the other hand, leave itchy, red welts on the skin and can also cause allergic reactions.

Signs of Infestations

Bed Bug Infestations

  • Bites: Bed bug bites are small, red, itchy welts. They often appear in clusters or straight lines.
  • Visual sightings: You may see adult bed bugs, which are about the size of an apple seed, reddish-brown in color, and flat. Their nymphs and eggs are much smaller and more challenging to spot.
  • Bloodstains and fecal spots: Check your bed linens, mattress seams, and other hiding places, such as baseboards and picture frames, for tiny black or brown fecal spots.

Carpet Beetle Infestations

  • Damage to fabrics: Carpet beetles feed on natural fibers, such as wool, silk, and fur. They may damage clothing, carpets, and upholstery.
  • Shed skins and fecal pellets: Look for signs of larval shed skins and tiny, round, brown fecal pellets in dark, secluded areas like closets and under furniture.

Bed Bug

Comparison of Damage Caused

Textiles and Clothes

Carpet beetles and bed bugs both cause damage to textiles and clothes. However, their feeding habits are different.

Carpet beetles:

  • Feed on natural fibers like wool, silk, and cotton
  • Damage caused by larvae
  • Create holes and chewed areas

Bed bugs:

  • Do not feed on clothing fibers
  • May hide in clothes or laundry
  • Damage happens due to their feces and cast skins

Furniture and Upholstery

Both pests can cause damage to furniture and upholstery, but their preferences and habits differ.

Carpet beetles:

  • Damage fabric-covered furniture
  • Larvae feed on natural fibers
  • Can also damage leather

Bed bugs:

  • Hide in cracks and crevices of furniture
  • Feed on human blood, not on fibers or materials
  • Furniture damage occurs due to fecal stains and molted skins

Plants and Seeds

Carpet beetles and bed bugs exhibit different behaviors when it comes to plants and seeds.

Carpet beetle:

Bed bugs:

  • Do not feed on plants or seeds
  • Solely feed on human or animal blood
 Carpet BeetleBed Bug
Textiles/ClothesDamage by feeding on fibersHide in clothes
Furniture/UpholsteryDamage fabric and leather furnitureHide in cracks and crevices
Plants/SeedsSome species feed on plants/seedsNot relevant

Carpet Beetles

Prevention and Control Methods

Eliminating Bed Bug Infestations

Bed bugs can be found in various environments. To prevent and control bed bug infestations:

Bed bugs can hitchhike on clothing and luggage, so be cautious when traveling.

Pest management professionals can help with severe infestations and correct bug identification.

Getting Rid of Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are non-biting pests but can cause damage to clothing, fabrics, and carpets. Here are some methods to get rid of carpet beetles:

  • Vacuum: Vacuum cleaning your home, especially around carpets and fabric items, will help eliminate adult carpet beetles and larvae.
  • Temperature: Exposing infested items to high heat or freezing temperatures can help kill carpet beetles at different life stages.

Perform regular inspections for signs of infestations, such as shed skins, larvae, and damaged fabrics.

Keep in mind that carpet beetles may be mistaken for bed bugs, so proper identification is essential when dealing with pests.

Conclusion

Carpet beetles and bed bugs are two distinct pests that homeowners often encounter, each with unique characteristics and behaviors.

Carpet beetles, small and rounded, feed on natural fibers, causing damage to fabrics, carpets, and clothing. Their larvae are especially notorious for this damage.

In contrast, bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on human and animal blood, often causing discomfort due to their bites.

While carpet beetles can be identified by their patterned wings and bristly larvae, bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat, and wingless.

Another common household beetle that is often confused with bed bugs is the spider beetle.

Proper identification of these pests is crucial for effective prevention and treatment, ensuring a comfortable living environment.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about bed bugs and carpet beetles. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bed Bug

Do I have bedbugs??
September 27, 2009
For about the past two weeks, I’ve been getting at least one bite per night. I don’t know what it is! Help!
The bites started mostly on my lower body with a few on my hands. The first few nights I woke up with severe itching and several bites – more than a dozen each night!

The bites went from the soles of my feet and in between my toes to the backs of my calves and seemed to culminate in a giant cluster on my hip that swelled up to about the size of an Oreo cookie – it looked like a group of 6 or so bites.

A couple mornings later I woke with a handful scattered just below my collar bone. I’ve had a few on my arms and one on my stomach, but I’ve lucked out and haven’t gotten any on my face (knock on wood).

At first the itching lasted a few days but for the last 3-4 days, the itching has been isolated to one day, is not as severe, and I have only been getting a single bite per night. As the bites have healed, they have left an area of hyperpigmentation…

I can still see where the bites I got in the beginning were – they almost look like little bruises now, but they’re not tender.

I only got bit when I slept in my bed – I slept on the couch one night (I just couldn’t stand the bites anymore!) and was bite free! My husband has not gotten ANY bites, though!! Could whatever’s biting me prefer my blood to his? Are they maybe just on my side of the bed?

We have set off a bug bomb and changed the sheets. I also gave my cat a flea treatment just in case. Interestingly, I have been finding scabs around her collar (maybe a coincidence?) – this started a few days before I started getting the bites, but I have not seen the cat scratching herself. We also put out some adhesive rodent/insect traps, but have not caught anything on them.

Today I found a strange little bug that I’d never seen before. I found it on my knee… crawling about on my jeans in the middle of the day. I saved it in a cup and my husband took a photo when he got home. You can see our little bug in the photo next to a dime and the head of a pin. It’s super tiny and mostly round, about the size of a sesame seed.

No wings. Six legs. Brownish, kind of opaque. Do you think this critter is the culprit? Can you tell me what he is? I was thinking maybe a baby bedbug… but obviously I’m no expert! I kind of hope that’s not what he is because where there’s babies, there’s got to be grown-ups!
I am sick of these bites and want the bugs GONE! Thanks so much!
Tarra
Astoria, Queens, NY

Immature Bed Bug
Immature Bed Bug

Hi Tarra,
We agree that this is an immature Bed Bug.  You can see a photo on BugGuide that matches.  During the day, Bed Bugs hide from the light, and they can be found between the mattress and box spring, between the base board and the wall, and behind pictures hung on the wall.  Good luck with the eradication.

Immature Bed Bug
Immature Bed Bug

Eric Eaton comments
September 30, 2009
Daniel:
The couple with the bed bugs needs to seek a professional extermination service, or have the landlord do so if they are renting.  Bed bugs are one of the few household pests that really requires the professionals. 

The eradication process is very invasive, though, as you literally have to take apart the bedroom and furniture to get to the bugs.  Be prepared for at least three visits from the exterminator, and probably more to guarantee the success of the effort.

As for Tarra’s husband not getting bitten:  he is, he just isn’t reacting to the bites.  Every person’s immune response is different, and clearly Tarra is more sensitive than her hubby.  She should make sure her symptoms don’t worsen, and see a physician if they do.

Lastly, bed bugs often ignite legal warfare as well, as landlords seek to hold tenants responsible, even if they are not the ones who introduced the bed bugs.  So, I always recommend seeking legal advice when approaching this kind of problem.  Yes, good luck with the eradication!
Eric

Letter 2 – Bed Bug

Subject: bug ID
Location: Southern California
April 4, 2015 12:08 pm
I live in Southern California and felt this bug crawling on my arm while laying in bed around 330 am lastnight. my family has become the victims of something bitting us while we sleep and I’ve checked for bed bugs with no results.

Is this what’s possibly bitting us? I sent three pics a few minutes ago. I just took this one bc I still have the bug and it’s a better pic.
Signature: Rick

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Rick,
This sure looks like a Bed Bug to us, and it appears that it has recently eaten as it looks to be engorged with blood.

Letter 3 – Bed Bug

Subject: Bugs in my bed
Location: Central Virginia
April 17, 2015 9:48 pm
I have had a problem recently with bug bites on my skin. Here recently I have found a few bugs crawling on my bed at night. I am terrified that they are bedbugs or I have some other type of infestation going on in my house.

These were 2 different bugs. The second one I squeezed and blood came out but it kept moving!! Please help!
Signature: Petrified of bugs & bites

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Petrified of bugs & bites,
Both images are of Bed Bugs and you might want to seek professional assistance with your problem.

Letter 4 – Bed Bug

Subject: Please help me.
Location: Desert, inside bedroom, 70 degrees Fahrenheit room temperature.
April 18, 2015 4:21 pm
I was in a panic today trying to figure out what type of bug this is. I have found three in various places on my bedroom walls in the past month.

Today, I moved my bed and found about five or six, some dead, some moving, in the corner of my room. My mother is convinced that it’s a desert roach, since we live in the southwest, and I’m thinking that it’s a bedbug.

I checked my bed and found only two living ones in the corner facing my wall. I cleaned my room, sprayed it, vacuumed. The works. Now I’m still unsure of what type of bug this is and I’m worried that I’ll find more, even though I’ve done a top to bottom cleaning in my bedroom.

Right now, it’s spring, the middle of April. I found a couple in the middle of March. I came back from a trip using a piece of luggage from the garage which has a couple roaches, unfortunately. I checked the mattress and room I slept in for any signs of bugs. Nothing.

Not sure where these bugs are coming from or what they are. Please help. I’m panicking. I’ve never been in this situation before.
Signature: Complicated One

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Complicated One,
This is a blood-sucking Bed Bug and you should probably seek professional assistance with the problem.

Letter 5 – Bed Bug

Subject: weird bug
Location: Northeast Louisiana
April 17, 2015 7:42 pm
Dear bugman
I think this bug is biting my family and I think my house is infected with them.
Signature: yalonda

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Yalonda,
You have blood sucking Bed Bugs, and we recommend that you seek professional assistance for the problem.

Letter 6 – Bed Bug

Subject: HELP!! I’m not a bug person and this is very frustrating
Location: Dayton, OH
May 15, 2015 2:31 am
These guys come through the window, I’ve watched them do it. But here lately, they’re invading EVERYWHERE. My 8 month old sleeps in the room with us, and the first time I seen one flying about was around her and her bed.

Then I noticed them more on my blankets and hiding around, what are they, every time I see them they make my skin crawl.
Signature: Chew Concerned Mommy

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Chew Concerned Mommy,
Because collectively the members of the family Cimicidae are known as Bed Bugs, we do not feel we are in error by informing you that this is a Bed Bug, however, BugGuide notes they are: 

“ectoparasites of birds and mammals; most are associated with birds & bats, only 2 spp. (Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus) are permanently associated with humans.” 

So this might not be the true Common Bed Bug, Cimex lectularius , but rather a Bat Bug, Swallow Bug or other species, you can be assured that it is a blood sucker and if its regular prey is not available, it will feed on you and your children, so you have cause for concern. 

Since you have observed them coming in through the windows, we are presuming that they may have been feeding on the blood of birds, but when the fledgelings flew the nest, the Cimicids are entering the home in search of food. 

Of the Eastern Bat Bug, BugGuide notes:  “Large infestations may occur with bat populations in the attics of buildings. Adults may move from bat roosting places in homes to occupied rooms and bite people during the night”

Letter 7 – Bed Bug

Subject: I need to know what this is
Location: East central Wisconsin
July 30, 2015 8:13 pm
I need to find out exactly what this bug is. I’ve done all the things my landlord told me to do to get rid of them, and i just found this one… i just want to make sure she was correct with what she told me it was and what i should be doing to get rid of them. Thank you.
Signature: Frustrated

Bed Bug
Bed Bug

Dear Frustrated,
We don’t know what your landlady told you, but this is a Bed Bug, a blood sucking insect that will bite you in your sleep. 

If there is one Bed Bug in your apartment, chances are there are more.  Bed Bugs can be very difficult to eradicate, but our suggestion is that you take immediate action.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Bed Bug

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