If given the choice between having carpet beetles or having bed bugs, the obvious answer would be neither. However, if you suspect that either one of these pests has already snuck into your home and become a threat to your family, you need to know which is which so you can eliminate the threat.

What is the scientific difference between carpet beetles and bed bugs?

Bed bugs are in the family Cimicidae, while carpet beetles are in the family Dermestids. The difference here is that bed bugs have a mouth made for piercing skin and sucking blood while carpet beetles have a mouth made for chewing on plants and other fibrous material. The good news is that this means carpet beetles don’t bite humans. The bad news? Bed bugs do.

What are the diet and feeding habits of bed bugs and carpet beetles?

Bed bugs feed on human blood while carpet beetles actually prefer pollen and nectar (which is why they often enter your home on cut flowers). Once inside, carpet beetles expand their diet to include hair, fur, silk, wool, clothes and other fibrous material. While carpet beetles aren’t an invasive danger to your body (they may produce a rash from skin contact), they can still do some serious monetary damage to your carpets, fabrics, upholstery, furniture, food and family possessions.

Do carpet beetles or bed bugs fly?

Another important distinction to note between carpet beetles and bed bugs: carpet beetles can fly. They can enter your home through cracks, doors, windows and other openings. Bed bugs cannot fly. Instead, they drag their blood-filled bodies across your skin to and from their hiding spots.

How do carpet beetles and bed bugs differ in appearance?

Bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat and shaped like an apple seed. Carpet beetles vary in color depending on type (e.g., varied, black, furniture or common carpet beetles). Sometimes they look like a black and yellow ladybug. They have short antennae and round bodies and might also have irregular brown, orange and white scales or be solid brown or black. Carpet beetles are generally smaller than bed bugs.

Carpet beetles typically have 11 segments to their antennae, which are shaped like a club. Their membranous wings are covered by a hard exterior shell. Bed bugs have thick antennae arranged in four segments. They have wing pads on both sides of their head, but no wings (i.e., vestigial or undeveloped wings). It’s extremely hard to see a carpet beetle’s eyes, while a bed bug has eyes that protrude from its head. An immature carpet beetle has tufts of hair sticking out from its body while bed bugs may appear hairless.

Where can you find carpet beetles and bed bugs in your home?

Bed bugs typically hide within eight feet of their victims. Check in and around your bed as well as clothing, drawers, cracks, baseboards, floorboards, electrical switch covers and anywhere else that grants these pests easy access to your sleeping family.

Carpet beetles aren’t always found in carpets, especially since many modern carpets are synthetic. Instead, look for carpet beetles in spaces between walls, chimneys, crawl spaces, attics and basements. Carpet beetles particularly like living in places where other insects have lived, especially if those insects are dead. Of course, flowers are their preferred food source, and they are attracted to sunlight, so indoor plants would be their ideal habitat.

What types of skin reactions do carpet beetles and bed bugs cause?

Generally speaking, carpet beetles damage your belongings, while bed bugs damage your skin. Still, bed bugs and carpet beetles can both leave similar evidence of their presence on your skin. Bed bug bites are actual bites. The bug injects anesthetic and anticoagulant into your skin with its mouth to ensure a quick feeding that won’t disturb your sleep. This saliva causes an allergic reaction in some people, which registers as raised, red welts that itch. Carpet beetles can also leave red bumps on your skin, but they aren’t bites. These bumps and rashes are caused by an allergic reaction to hairs or bristles on the abdomen of carpet beetle larvae as well as to traces of the insect’s blood.

The two can easily be confused as both bed bug bites and dermatitis caused by carpet beetles often appear in a straight line or row. This is caused by the path the bug or insect takes when crawling over your skin. Both instances may result in itchy welts that can become infected and erupt from excessive scratching.

Both carpet beetle and bed bug infestations are serious matters that need professional pest control treatment. Both of these obscure invaders disperse throughout your home and are experts when it comes to hiding. Instead of carpet beetles vs. bed bugs, it quickly becomes pests vs. your family. When that happens, be sure to call Terminix® to make sure the battle is short-lived.