Are These Carpet Beetles or Bed Bugs?
5 Main Differences

Did you find a bug in your house and don't know what it is? This guide (with pictures!) will help you identify if it's a bed bug or a carpet beetle. Easy! And what to do next to get rid of them!

Are These Carpet Beetles or Bed Bugs? 5 Main Differences Thumbnail

Table of contents

Introduction

If you're reading this post it's maybe because you found a bug in your house and quickly googled something similar to "Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs". Something similar to what happened to this guy:

You're not alone!

Every month in the USA, over 3,000 people search exactly for the term "Carpet Beetles vs Bed Bugs". And thousands more search for similar queries!

Search for Carpet Beetle vs Bed bug
Searches for the query "Carpet Beetle vs Bed Bug"

You just found the best and most comprehensive online article about this particular topic. So keep reading and you'll find all the answers you were looking for.

Let's play a little game

You just saw a video of someone who found a bug in his bed. Once you've read the article, let's see how many seconds it takes you to point out whether he is dealing with a carpet beetle or a bed bug.

For those of you who are a little bit more impatient, I'll say that there are 5 main differences between carpet beetles and bed bugs:

1. Bed bugs are bigger and have flat bodies than bed bugs;

2. Bed bugs eat human blood and carpet beetle larvae feed on wool and animal-based materials;

3. Bed bugs are usually found on mattresses or close to your bed and carpet beetles live close to their food;

4. They're both dangerous to humans because bed bugs bite and carpet beetles can cause allergies;

5. Finally, the way to get rid of them differs a little bit.

We'll take a look at these differences in more detail.

5 Main Differences

1. What they look like

Carpet Beetle vs Bed bug

Bed Bugs are in the family of the Cimicidae. Carpet Beetles, on the other hand, are in the family of Dermestids.

That basically means that they look very different from one another. The biggest difference is in size! Bed bugs measure ¼ of an inch long. Carpet Beetles, on the other hand, measure between 1/16 of an inch and 1/8 of an inch long.

You've noticed that carpet beetles length varies a lot while bed bugs are always the same length. That's because bed bugs always look the same, but there are a lot of carpet beetle species. The 3 most important carpet beetle types are black, varied and furniture.

I could try to explain the difference between the 11 segments of their bodies and their antennae compared to the flat apple-seed looking bodies of the bed bugs.

But I think that's useless.

What's really helpful is to see a picture of both and you'll see the difference for yourself.

1. The 3 species of carpet beetles and their larvae:

You'll notice that the adult carpet beetles all look very similar (except for the color). Their larvae, on the other hand, is very different depending on the species.

Carpet Beetle types

It's important to point out that Carpet Beetles have larvae. And the larvae are bigger than the adults! Way bigger!

If you've found larvae, it's carpet beetles. End of story.

2. A bed bug:

Bed bug

Bed bugs, on the other hand, don't have larvae. They become bigger and bigger during their lifespan, but never metamorphose as the carpet beetles do:

Bed bug lifecycle

Curious tip

Carpet Beetles are, well, beetles! So they have wings. Bed bugs don't have wings. If you see them flying it's a carpet beetle! Although they're quite difficult to see flying because they're so small!

2. What they eat

This is where it gets interesting... very very interesting.

Why?

Because they eat completely different things. But yet, it's hard sometimes to see the difference. Bear with me for a second.

Bed bugs drink human blood. They bite and leave your skin itchy. Carpet beetles will do absolutely no harm to you. But their larvae will eat animal hair, fur, silk, and any other fibrous material. That includes your sweaters, scarfs, towels, and of course your carpet!

Why is it hard sometimes to tell the difference?

Because Carpet Beetle larvae can cause an allergic reaction to some people when the larvae's hair (or dead skin) gets in touch with our skin.

The allergic reaction is so bad in fact that it's hard to tell the difference between both:

Carpet Beetle Rash vs Bed bug bites

So... how can you tell?

Bed bug bites are itchier and the Carpet beetle's rash is more painful. Although it's hard to know the difference if you've never experienced both. And I really hope you haven't!

Bed bugs bites are a lot more frequent than carpet beetle rash. That's because bed bugs will try to bite you every night, whereas you'll only get a rash if a larva happens to crawl on you (and that's not as likely).

3. Where they're found

This is very important from a practical point of view. Let's take a look at both bed bugs and carpet beetles separately.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs typically hide very close to their victims (us). They're also very cowards. They only attack at night! That's why you'll typically find them close to your bed hiding in drawers, cracks, floorboards, electrical switch covers... Anywhere that's small enough for them not to be seen. Then they come out at night and start feeding.

Bed bugs don't fly, and so they don't get into your house through your window. They get into your house because something that was contaminated (like a mattress) was brought into your house. They are more common in cities, where there are more people and more houses they can infest.

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are easier to be found than bed bugs! They're not nearly as good in hiding. They are usually found close to their larval food supply. They like closed, dark places. That's why it's very common to find them in closets, attics or basements next to an old wool rug or a dead carcass (a bird or a rat).

Adult carpet Beetles are also found close to windows. That's the way they come in most of the time. And they can be found anywhere in North America. Although it's usually a tougher problem to solve in the south because the warmer weather accelerates their breeding times.

4. How dangerous they are

Both of them are dangerous. They must be eliminated. But because of different reasons.

Carpet Beetles

But Carpet Beetles are dangerous only to your stuff. Unless you're allergic and have come in contact with the larvae, then they're harmful to you too. But that's not very common. Larvae want to avoid you just as much as you want to avoid them. Their damage will usually look more like this:

Carpet Beetle damage to clothes Carpet Beetle damage to carpets

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are always very dangerous (and unpleasant) to humans. Their bite is very itchy and can cause nightmares to grown men and women.

But the worst part is to know that you're unsafe in your own home, in your own bed. The psychological pressure is terrible and a lot of people have trouble getting to sleep. Who can blame them!?

Carpet Beetle damage to carpets

But do either transmit any diseases?

Historically we've always thought that neither of them transmitted any diseases contagious. But just a couple of years ago a study from Penn Medicine confirmed that bed bugs can transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, which is the parasite that causes Chagas disease. And that's one of the most deadly diseases in North, Central and South America.

It's unlikely, but it's also possible.

5. How to get rid of them

There are different ways in which you can get rid of both the carpet beetles and the bed bugs.

In both cases, you have a DIY solution. And if that doesn't work, then you must hire a professional before it's too late. You don't want to risk having to change your carpet (which will be a lot more expensive) or someone in your family being bitten over and over again.

Carpet Beetles

We wrote a whole post on how to get rid of carpet beetles: You can get rid of Disgusting Carpet Beetles. This is How!.

Check it out to make sure that you're getting rid of those carpet beetles the right way.

Bed Bugs

Getting rid of bed bugs is very similar to killing carpet beetles. They're bigger, so they're easier to see. But they know how to hide better. There are two approaches you could take:

- The first approach is the physical approach. This approach usually starts by wrapping your mattress around a plastic case to prevent them from coming out and then using traps to kill the remaining bed bugs (the ones that weren't hiding on the mattress).

In the past we've recommended a couple of Amazon encasements. But we've had way to many people tell us through our Ask an Expert section that those covers weren't being effective.

We looked into it and found out that many of the bed bug proof encasements that are generally sold online don't last very long. The encasement itself does, but their ability to retain bed bugs inside the mattress doesn't. And bed bugs can live inside mattresses for up to 18 months without feeding.

What I'm trying to say is... don't go for a cheap mattress encasements. Buy a bed bug mattress encasement that will truly protect you. This is the one I recommend the most. It's sold by a company named Bed Bug Supply, and the encasement is made by a company named SafeRest. They have a 4 step process to kill bed bugs that you should really look into:

SafeRest Bed Bug Mattress Encasement

Bed Bug Encasement

You should also vacuum carefully with a powerful vacuum (check our post on The Best Vacuum Cleaners of 2020

- The second approach is the spray approach. There are all kinds of sprays that are effective against bed bugs. Some are synthetic. They contain permethrin or pyrethroids and are very effective repelling bed bugs. The one we recommend the most is a spray made by a company alled Say Bye Bugs. It's by far the best spray we've found so far. But we also recommend using it with a bed bug detergent for your sheets. It's the fastest and most efficient way of not getting bitten. The only company that makes that detergent is My cleaning products, and their detergent is their all-time best-seller for a reason!

I honestly think that the best approach is a combination of both approaches. And if that doesn't work... you can always call a professional to help you get rid of bed bugs.

Conclusion

And that's it! You probably now feel comfortable enough to know what you're dealing with.

Last but not least, we have to consider one more thing. And that is that some homes are infested with both bed bugs and carpet beetles.

And to be honest, it's quite common. The reason is that carpet beetles eat other dead insects. So, if you already have bed bugs, carpet beetles may stay in your house because of the food abundance. And when their larvae make an appearance, that's when you notice.

Whether you have bed bugs or carpet beetles, whether you have both, you can deal with this issue! I know you can! Thousands and thousands of Americans every year get rid of these pests. And you can too!

If there's anything I can do to help, please send me your question through our Ask an Expert section.

I'll be happy to help!

Cheers,

Jeremy Hayes Picture

By Jeremy Hayes

Pest Control

Hello, I'm Jeremy. I used to own a blog about pest control until Jimena found me and asked me to join the Carpet and Rug World team. I'm passionate about carpet beetles, bed bugs, moths, etc. A lot of people don't understand how that's possible. I always say that the smile on a person's face when they get rid of the problem is worth it!

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Jeremy Hayes Picture

Jeremy Hayes

Pest Control

Hello, I'm Jeremy. I used to own a blog about pest control until Jimena found me and asked me to join the Carpet and Rug World team. I'm passionate about carpet beetles, bed bugs, moths, etc. A lot of people don't understand how that's possible. I always say that the smile on a person's face when they get rid of the problem is worth it!

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