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A flea? A bed bug? No, it’s a carpet beetle!

Is it a flea? Is it a bed bug? No, it’s a carpet beetle!

In today’s world, we’re all a little paranoid when it comes to anything with more than four legs. For some of us, insects have always been gross. For others, the modern-day outbreak of bed bugs has us constantly on alert. Either way, it’s important to be able to distinguish between OH MY GOSH WE HAVE BED BUGS and other insects that are definitely a nuisance, but not the alarm-raising infestation you suspect it may be. In the Portland and Seattle area, organic pest control technicians often encounter two other types of insects that are thought to be bed bugs.

Commonly, flea bites and occasionally fleas are mistaken for their much more prolific and costly relatives, the bed bug. Fleas are not capable of living off humans alone, but can create a problem in a home for a period of six months or more once the pet has been removed and/or treated. This is because fleas often remain in undeveloped stages in the carpet, and only progress to adult stage once direct pressure, carbon dioxide and/or heat have activated them. There are green methods of pest control for managing fleas, and our technicians, trained in organic pest control, will be able to provide details on those.

In the Seattle and Oregon area, we are also getting calls regarding carpet beetles. Carpet beetles are a part of the Dermestid family, and we see a few different types. We often find the varied carpet beetle, the black carpet beetle, and the furniture carpet beetle infesting homes. They all eat the same class of things – organic materials such as natural fibers (cotton, wool), fur, hair, skin, food, et cetera. Their eating habits often explain some of the confusion – because their larvae consume our dead skin, we often find them in or around our mattresses.

More importantly, it isn’t the adult beetle that causes alarm. The larvae are small and reddish brown, with hairs protruding from their exoskeleton.  Once the skin is cast off from the insect, it can often be confused with a bed bug casting. The hairs can cause irritation of the skin, creating something like a rash. This rash, along with the castings, is the most common reason people assume they have a bed bug infestation rather than a carpet beetle infestation.

Here’s a great photo comparison that might help:

Bed bug  vs. Carpet Beetle

Bed BugVariegated carpet beetle by davidshort, on Flickr

So – it’s still a bug, right? In my bed? Right. We agree, it’s creepy and it needs to be fixed. The good news is that bed bugs spread like wildfire, while carpet beetles can be easily managed with green pest control techniques. If you suspect you have a carpet beetle infestation, or a bed bug one for that matter, you can always give us a call. We perform free identifications and can put your mind at ease. We can also work with you to provide the proper applications necessary to eliminate your problem.

Thanks for reading!


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