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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Carpet Beetles Management


Hi -- I emailed with you before in my hunt for the cause of many (2-4 new ones every day) bites or welts all over my body for the last 4.5 weeks. I've now had three PCO inspectors and two dogs, and all the experts who have examined my bed and small studio apartment have said it's not bedbugs. They did find a couple of carpet beetles, one on my mattress and one under the bed, and I also found one behind the bed and one on the kitchen counter. So it's been suggested to me that my ongoing bites (or whatever they are) are a reaction to an allergy to the carpet beetle larvae, which I hear is not uncommon.
My question is this: extermination/fumigation for carpet beetles in NYC is over $700, and the preparation is exactly the same as for bedbugs, in other words, extremely laborious. Do 4 carpet beetle findings constitute an infestation that is worth this extermination? I have vaccuumed, changed linen, and sprayed the frame of my platform bed with 91% alcohol, but I am still getting the welts (I've even had one near my groin). Could you please advise? I don't know how I can make this decision.

Dear Susan - I would advise against the treatment for carpet beetles. The reports in the literature make it clear that any adverse reaction to carpet beetle larvae takes a high degree of exposure (i.e.: a heavy infestation) over an extended period of time to manifest itself, and four beetles hardly constitutes a heavy infestation. Routine vacuuming of rugs and along wall/floor junctions and storage of dry foodstuffs in sealable containers should keep them from becoming a problem. Have you consulted a dermatologist/allergist for a medical opinion?

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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