Carpet beetles, though miniature in size, can wreak havoc on your home and belongings if left unnoticed. These tiny intruders are often overlooked until the damage is done, making it crucial for homeowners to be familiar with their appearance. Characterised by a deceptively harmless exterior, carpet beetles possess a remarkable ability to blend into their surroundings, making them elusive to the untrained eye.

In this article, we delve into the intricate details of what carpet beetles look like, shedding light on their physical characteristics and habits, equipping you with the knowledge needed to identify and address a potential infestation before it becomes a full-blown problem that requires professional carpet beetle pest control.

Identifying Different Types of Carpet Beetles in the U.K.

Since we’re talking about insects, you might think there are hundreds of types to cover. No, there are only three types in the U.K. That’s not so bad, right?

Varied Carpet Beetles (Anthrenus verbasci)

Varied carpet beetles are usually small, around 1.5-3.5 mm long, with round bodies and tiny wings. The first thing you’ll notice when you look at them is their appearance.

They have vibrant brown, white, and black marks on their bodies, which offer intriguing visuals that make them easily stand out. These patterns fade away over time, though.
Eventually, the beetles end up with solid black or brown bodies. The only other parts that might stand out are the abnormally large eyes.

The rest of this species’s body is nothing out of the ordinary. They’ve got black legs, small heads, and clubbed antennae. They’re called that because they’re thin at the bottom and thick at the top.

Larvae Identification

Why would you want to know what the larvae of carpet beetles look like? They go through a developmental stage, growing from a larva to a beetle in a few weeks. Part of identifying carpet beetles is learning what their larvae look like. Yes, they look entirely different.

The larvae of varied carpet beetles are famous for having dense layers of hair covering their bodies. They also have colourful tergites, which tend to be light brown in the middle and dark brown at the front and back ends. The head, on the other hand, is light brown and orange.

Two-Spot Carpet Beetle (Attagenus pellio)

The two-spot carpet beetle has a small, round body, around 4.5-6 mm long. When you compare it to its varied counterpart, the difference between their appearances will be day and night.
While the varied beetle has a vibrant yellow/brown exoskeleton, the two-spot has an entirely dark body. It’s usually covered in thin, white hair, making it look like the night sky.

So, why is it called the two-spot beetle? Well, that hair grows more intensely on the wing cases, forming two round, white spots.

These beetles’ antennae are usually thin at the bottom and thick at the top. Of course, their sizes vary depending on age and gender, but females tend to be bigger than males.

Larvae Identification

When you look at the larva of the two-spot beetle, you won’t believe they’re the same species. At first glance, it looks like a long, flat, vibrant shrimp with two clusters of hair. In terms of length, this one can reach 6.5 mm when it’s fully developed.

It has a golden yellow/brown body, although the thorax is usually lighter in colour. Combine that with the visible segments, and you get a unique-looking species you can identify quickly.

Brown Carpet Beetle (Attagenus smirnovi)

At first glance, the brown and two-spot carpet beetles might look the same. After all, they both have a dark oval body with dense hair.

However, you can identify a few subtle differences if you look closer. Yes, brown carpet beetles have dark bodies, but the middle section is usually dark red/brown.

Sometimes, it can be pure black. Even then, you can use other physical characteristics to distinguish this species.

Looking at the legs and the antennae, you’ll notice a reddish/yellowish hue. Like their two-spot counterpart, female brown beetles tend to be bigger than males. The males usually have longer antennae, though.

Larvae Identification

Although the regular brown carpet beetle is usually 2-5mm long, a larva can go as far as 8mm when it reaches its final developmental stage.

In terms of appearance, it looks like a gooey torpedo because it gradually tapers from the head to the end of the abdomen. Its body is brown and bronze from the top and yellow-brown from the bottom. You can also find golden hair in the middle section of its body.

Identifying Different Types of Carpet Beetles in Other Countries

Yes, the U.K. isn’t the only country with carpet beetles. If you visit the U.S., you might come across a few exotic types. Let’s see a few examples.

Furniture Carpet Beetles (Anthrenus flavipes)

It’s hard to distinguish furniture and varied carpet beetles from each other. They both have similar white and dark yellow scales with black spots. However, you can identify furniture carpet beetles through size and body shape, as they’re usually larger and rounder. As their name suggests their favorite source of keratin is upholstered furniture.

Adult furniture beetles can lose their colourful patterns over time like their varied counterparts. However, they look black from the top and white from the bottom.

Larvae Identification

The appearance of the larvae changes throughout their lifespan. In their early stages, they develop white skin, but it gradually darkens, turning dark red/brown.

Black Carpet Beetle (Attagenus unicolor)

As the name suggests, these species have a black/dark brown body and brown legs, making them easy to identify. They’re usually 3.5-4.5 mm long.

Larvae Identification

Unlike the adult version, the larvae of black carpet beetles are golden brown. They’re usually wide at the head and thinner at the rear.

Their hairy bodies are more fascinating than you think, as they combine smoothness and firmness.

Wrapping Up

The next time an entomology student comes up to you and asks: What do carpet beetles look like? You know what to say.

Although some species look similar, each has unique characteristics. Even if adult beetles look alike, the larvae are more distinguishable.