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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/What is this bug in my closet?

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Closet bug
Closet bug  
QUESTION: I found this on my shirt in my closet. It is a shirt I rarely use and this bug was/is very much dead. Wondering if I should be worried. What is this thing?? Thanks!

ANSWER: Darren:

Thanks for including the image with your question.  This is the larva of a carpet beetle, genus Anthrenus , family Dermestidae.  In the picture it is belly-up.

Carpet beetle inquiries easily account for 70% of the questions I am asked, so forgive me for attaching the following standard responses:  

Here is more information:

http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/dermestids08.pdf

and

http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/3104/3104-1588/3104-1588.html

and

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/insect/05549.html

http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7436.html

Yours would be the "Varied Carpet Beetle," Anthrenus verbaci , or a closely-related species.

One of these days I will put together my own fact sheet....Keeping your home clean of accumulating shed hair and skin flakes from people and pets always helps.  Storing dry food (including dry pet food) in glass or metal containers with tight-fitting lids is essential.  Put woolens and furs in a cedar chest.

Do NOT use chemical controls.  Mothballs (naphthelene) are ineffective and moth crystals (paradicholorobenzene) are potentially carcinogenic.

Hope the above links and information help.  Simply discard any infested items.

and....

Nine times out of ten, the insect that best fits such a generic description, and found indoors, is a carpet beetle in the family Dermestidae (genera Anthrenus, Trogoderma, and Attagenus in particular).  Carpet beetle adults are not really a problem, and in fact help pollinate some kinds of wildflowers.  The larvae, on the other hand, are the insect equivalent of juvenile delinquents.

Carpet beetle larvae feed on all manner of dried animal products, including, but not limited to:  pet food, taxidermy mounts, cured meats, insect collections (like mine, ARG!!), wool blankets and garments, silks, furs, even the accumulated shed hair of pets and people.

All you have to do is find the infested item(s) and discard it (them).  To prevent future infestations, store all vulnerable foodstuffs in glass or metal containers with tight-fitting lids.  Store woolens, furs, and silks in a container inside a cedar chest, as cedar has proven repellent qualities and is not carcinogenic, unlike moth crystals.

You can find many images of carpet beetles and their larvae online, including:

http://www.whatsthatbug.com

http://www.bugguide.net

and also in my book, the "Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America."  Feel free to get back to me if you can conclusively rule out carpet beetles (keeping in mind there are many species and much individual variation in color and pattern), and I'll try again.  You can find more information on their control at any .edu website that addresses carpet beetles or "stored product pests" in general.

The links mentioned should answer any remaining questions you might have.

Eric

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Eric, so extremely helpful! So one quick follow up question. you mention discarding any items where we found the beetle. Does that mean we should through out the shirt?? I imagine we could wash it and that your comment refers mostly to food?

Thanks,
Darren

Answer
Darren:

You are welcome.

Yes, throw out infested foodstuffs, but do go through any wool, fur, or silk garments or blankets to make sure there are not more larvae among them.  Clean them, or have them cleaned, and if they are not damaged beyond repair, then store them in a cedar chest when they are not being worn or used regularly.

Hope that clarifies.  You can also freeze and thaw affected items (freeze for a week, thaw a couple days or so, freeze for another week, about two-three times total) to try and kill any remaining larvae and eggs.

Eric

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Eric R. Eaton

Expertise

I answer insect and spider identification questions ONLY. Attach images if possible. No "what bit me?", "what do I feed this bug in captivity?", or science fair project questions please. NO TECHNICAL QUESTIONS ABOUT INSECT PHYSIOLOGY.

Experience

Principal author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Professional entomologist employed previously at University of Massachusetts, Chase Studio, Inc., and Cincinnati Zoo; contract work for West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Smithsonian Institution, and Portland (Oregon) State University.

Publications
Author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Missouri Conservationist magazine, Ranger Rick, Birds & Blooms, Timeline (journal of the Ohio Historical Society). I have contributed to several books as well.

Education/Credentials
Oregon State University, undergraduate major in entomology, did not receive degree.

Awards and Honors
One of the top 50 experts in all categories for AllExperts.com, 2009.

Past/Present Clients
Principal author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Smithsonian Institution (contract), Cincinnati Zoo (employer), Portland State University (contract), Chase Studio, Inc (employer), Arkansas Museum of Discovery (guest speaker). Currently seeking speaking engagements, leadership roles at nature festivals, workshops, and ecotours.

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