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Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Creatures in vacuum cleaner


QUESTION: Hi Ed, can you help me identify what these are? On a few occasions recently I have spotted approx 5/6 of them in the vacuum cleaner after vacuuming the wooden floor of my son's room. They're approx 1cm long. I haven't noticed them around the room, only actually in the filter after they've been sucked up. My son has eczema so sheds quite a lot of skin. I'm struggling to identify what they are, where they live and how to control them so any advice would be much appreciated. I live in the UK. Many thanks!

ANSWER: Dear Adamo - These are the cast 'skins' (exoskeletons) of carpet beetle larvae. The one in the second image looks like one in the genus Attagenus (black carpet beetle and allies). Because of their widely varying dietary habits, these can be difficult to control completely. See <> for a fact sheet on carpet beetles, and if you feel the need for outside assistance, see <> for help in locating a professional pest control company in your area.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Hi Saugy, thank you so much for your reply. That seems to make sense, one thing I'd just like to ask though is about you saying the creatures I photographed were cast 'skins' that have been shed, however I have seen several of them in this form moving around before me rather than being dead, is this still correct? Many thanks indeed.

Dear Adamo - Yes, living larvae of dermestids often can be difficult to differentiate from freshly shed 'skins.' The fact that you have seen living examples indicates that you have an ongoing infestation; if you had only found the shed skins, it could just indicate a past infestation.

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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