Episode 244 – Carpet Beetle: Nail Bitter

“…and today we’re talking about a carpet crunching fiber eater. But more on that later.”

Creepy crawlies in your home are never fun. What serves as a Roomba in a bird’s nest might do some serious damage to dad’s favorite chair. The carpet beetle may not be as troublesome as its breakfast-in-bed loving kin, but it can be a nuisance for fabric fans. But why does this little larva love linens and things of that nature? If you’re able to digest what others can’t, there will always be a place at the tablecloth in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • Looks like a small round scarab-esque beetle with gold, brown, and white flecks on its shell. 
  • It’s six legs are coated in yellow scales.
  • It has two antennae that are tipped with large club-like bulbs.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at Gmail dot com. We do have a measure up intro from Melissa.


  • 2 to 3.5 millimeters (0.13 inches) long
  • How many carpet beetles go into the length of the longest rug?
  • Hint: The longest rug was made by The Children are Painting the World Social Fund in 2018 in Kazakhstan for an international art competition. 
  • 3,116,602.86 carpet beetles. The rug was 10,908.11 m (35,787 ft 9 in). 

Adult life span

  • 30 to 60 days
  • How many of the longest period a human went without sleep go into the lifespan of a carpet beetle?
  • Hint: Randy Gardner set the record for the longest period without sleep in 1963. If you’re thinking that that is a long time to hold the record, it’s probably because Guinness won’t recognize or record it since it is so dangerous to your health. Garder did it as a student and wanted to test if cognitive skills, and basketball skills, would decline. They found some strange results. His sense of smell became more sensitive to the point that strong smells would make him irritable. His basketball skills improved, but that was likely because he was naturally athletic and used basketball to stay awake through the experiment. In mice, sleep deprivation has proven deadly, so it’s considered an extremely dangerous challenge.
  • 5.4 periods. Gardner stayed awake for 264 hours (11 days).

Fast Facts

  • Range: Lives all over the world, particularly in warmer areas. Lives in peoples’ homes.
  • Diet: As adults, carpet beetles eat pollen and nectar. But I hear it has a different diet in its youth.
  • Behavior: 
    • The carpet beetle only lives for about two months once it pupates into an adult, but during that time will lay over 100 eggs
    • The larvae that hatch have little hairs over their posteriors that they constantly vibrate at high frequency to deter predators

You don’t want none when a carpet beetle larva wiggles his butt hairs 

Major Fact: Nail Biter

If you find a small critter crawling on your sheets, carpets, blankets, and drapes, your hackles may rise. Bed bugs are a wicked problem to have in your home, but carpet beetles are a whole different thing.

Carpet beetle larvae in your home won’t invade your bed and bite your legs at night. But they will hand out your fabrics and eat them. Their diet is made up almost entirely of keratin, which is found in cloth fibers, wool, and other fabrics.  

Anything in your home that’s made of fur, horns, silk, wool, bristles, feathers, skin, bone, and tortoise shell can be eaten by these insects. 

Carpets may not seem like they have a tone of nutritional value, and they don’t for most animals. Keratin is a protein that is highly resistant to digestive acid, and it would probably go through you undigested like fiber.

Carpet beetles have the unique ability to digest keratin proteins. They particularly enjoy linens and fibers that are soaked in excrement, blood, and animal oils. In fact, keratin-eating insects can only really thrive on soiled fibers. Clean clothes and linens lack vital nutrients like vitamin B that they need to survive. So, if you’re worried about them, keeping your linens clean can help. 

But if these guys are carpet killers, what do they do in the vast uncarpeted wilds?

In their natural environment, carpet beetle larvae live in the nests of birds, rodents, insects, and spiders, where they eat hair, feathers, and plant fibers. 

If you vacuum up carpet beetle larvae, you have to clean out the vacuum thoroughly. Otherwise, you may have just made them a perfect bed and breakfast where food is delivered at gale force speeds.

Ending: So wiggle your butt hairs, lay lots of eggs, and get your daily vitamins from whatever you can find like the Carpet Beetle here in LDT.