Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Bug ID Question

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Bug on Unlaundered Panties
Bug on Unlaundered Pan  
Subject: Unknown Bug on Unlaundered Panties

Question:
Dear Mr. Eaton,

Twice now - many many months apart - I have found one tiny unknown bug on my unlaundered panties.  (An image of one of the bugs is attached.)  Both bugs looked alike to each other, were alive, and crawled.  I live in an apartment in the Carolinas, USA.  Both times, the panties had been temporarily neglected (as opposed to being laundered in a timely fashion) - one pair was left somewhere in my closet, and the other pair was left in a suitcase.  The bugs seemed to be living right on top of what I believe to be normal female discharge that one might find on tight-fitting thong panties on occasion.

My Questions:
What is this bug?
Can it eat holes in clothing?
Can it live inside a human? (ie...digestive tract, female parts, etc.)
Is it dangerous, and does it carry disease?
What do you recommend for prevention/elimination of this bug?

Thanks Eric!  I very much appreciate your time, and I look forward to hearing your expertise!

Answer
Pinky:

Thank you for including the image with your question.  The insects are the larvae of carpet beetles, family Dermestidae.  Since easily 70% of the questions I receive pertain to these, forgive me for pasting my standard response here:

Your bug is the larva of a carpet beetle (family Dermestidae, genus Anthrenus ).  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, metal, or durable plastic 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....

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, metal, or durable plastic 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

So, carpet beetles are very common household pests, they will feed on fabrics of animal origin (wool, furs, silks), but do *not* enter the human body or carry diseases.

Eric

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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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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