How To Tell The Difference Between Bed Bugs Versus Carpet Beetles

Bed Bugs Versus Carpet Beetles

One of the worst things a homeowner can deal with is a pest infestation. Bugs may be small, but they can cause many problems when they begin showing up in your home in droves.

Even simple bugs like carpet beetles may be confused with bed bugs. However, before you panic over the possibility of an infestation, ask yourself what type of bug you’re actually dealing with first. What’s the actual difference between carpet beetles and bed bugs in your home?

1. What is a Bed Bug?

Bed Bug

Bed bugs are one of the top causes for paranoia in the home. Many people hear horror stories of bed bugs in homes, but it’s important to know exactly what they are before you panic. A bed bug is a small, flat insect that’s extremely hard and small to see.

They’ll usually hide in small places that are close to their food source, which is human blood. This is why these little bugs usually feed at night and generally live in mattresses and around beds. However, you might also find these bugs in carpets, sofas and other areas.

Look for these little bugs by appearance, checking for signs that they’re living in your home. They will leave behind shed skins, fecal matter and blood spots when there’s an infestation. You’ll notice red bite marks on your body too in the morning when you awake.

2. What is a Carpet Beetle?

Carpet Beetle

Many people confuse the bed bug and the carpet beetle, since these two bugs happen to look quite similar. Just like bed bugs, carpet beetles are small and flat as well, which makes them easy to mix up.

However, these little bugs do not feed on blood. Instead, they usually reside in carpeting or other similar fibers. Usually, they end up damaging said fibers.

The carpet beetle may look like a bed bug when it’s still small, but as they grow, they begin to look much different from the bed bug. Carpet beetles look more like small caterpillars, rather than little worms.

Mainly, you’ll notice a difference in color. Carpet beetles will look more spotted or striped with a white and brown color palette.

3. Are They Dangerous?

bed bug dangerous

Bed bugs are a great cause of fear, but despite the fact that they feed on blood, they have not actually been connected to any diseases. This is perhaps because they only nest close to one person and do not flit from human to human like mosquitos do.

These little bugs will generally hide during the day and come out to feed at night, so you’ll see the marks in the morning. Bed bugs frighten people mainly psychologically, as they find marks on their body when they wake up.

Even if there’s no evidence of diseases coming from bed bugs, they can be quite frightening. On the other hand, what about the carpet beetle? When it comes to your health and well-being, carpet beetles are not in fact dangerous.

They do not feed on humans and instead, prefer to damage carpets, wool and other similar materials. They will not infest beds or gather around people. In fact, you will also not see visible bite marks from them.

The only damage you have to worry about when it comes to carpet beetles is to your carpet.

4. What Types of Skin Reactions Do Carpet Beetles and Bed Bugs Cause?

Skin Reactions

For the most part, carpet beetles will break down your belongings while bed bugs attack your skin. Both types of bugs leave evidence of their existence on your skin, but in different ways.

1. Bed bug bites

When you have bed bugs, you’ll notice actual bites on your skin. Since they use their saliva to feed on you while you sleep, this can cause an allergic reaction in some people. This is where the raised, red, itchy bumps come from.

For the most part, you’ll see the marks in rows of three on your body. Notice the triangular pattern on your skin to differentiate it from the carpet beetle. This happens because several bed bugs usually feed on one person at a time.

Unlike the carpet beetle, you’re dealing with actual bites, since the bed bug really does feed on human blood. You’ll need remedies that relieve the itching, such as cool compresses, oatmeal baths, or pastes made from baking soda and water.

You may also need to try antihistamines to combat the itching that accompanies actual bites. However, know that these bites are not serious and usually heal completely.

The only thing you really need to worry about is experiencing an allergic reaction from bed bug bites, which some people do report after dealing with an infestation in their home.

2. Carpet beetle bites

Carpet beetles will also leave red bumps on your skin, although these are not bites. Usually, these rashes are caused by an allergic reaction to the hairs on carpet beetles and traces of their blood.

The allergic reaction certainly appears like you’ve been bitten though, as you deal with skin irritation. However, you might not see a skin reaction right away after carpet beetles invade your home.

This is largely because they don’t feed on humans and may be able to fly under the radar for a while. The allergic reaction may take time to build up, so by the time you start noticing skin irritation, the infestation has probably grown large by then.

You might also notice irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract over time. These similar bumps are why so many people get confused about whether they’re dealing with bed bugs or carpet beetles.

The rashes generally look similar from the paths the bugs take over your skin, although you may not see the same sort of triangular pattern with carpet beetles that you see with bed bugs.

This is why it is even more important to know the difference between these two types of bugs in your home. This is especially so when deciding what exterminating products to buy.

5. Where to Find Them

live place

Having a bed bug infestation in your home is not at all a sign of poor hygiene. Bed bugs are easily transported and may hide in your luggage, laundry, boxes, shoes and other items brought in from an infected area.

When they end up in your home, they tend to stay close to you, hiding in small cracks and crevices. They are most commonly found in bed parts such as mattresses, springs and folded areas.

Because they multiply very fast and travel even faster, bed bugs can be found in every region of the world, including each of the 50 U.S. states.

Places that have a lot of human traffic, such as hotels and apartments, are ideal locations for bed bug infestations and the most common source from which they spread around. Bed bugs are attracted to you and your pets because of the warmth and carbon dioxide you breathe out.

As a result, they tend to stay close – within 8 feet from their victims. Similarly, carpet beetles are also brought in from the outside and are not caused by a dirty room. Most of them live and breed outside your home, hidden in flowers and plants.

The house becomes infested once the adult carpet beetle comes inside your home along with the plants and starts laying eggs on potential food sources.

In addition to that, tight spaces and cracks around your windows, doors, vents and others present a convenient access point for them as well, simply because they are able to fly.

Regardless of their name, carpet beetles are not only found in carpets. As a matter of fact, they also live in your furniture and hide in your floors, attic, walls, chimney, basements and other crawl spaces.

They prefer living in places where other insects previously lived in as well as indoor plants that have access to a lot of sunlight.

6. How They Differ in Appearance

carpet beetle

Because both of these pests are very small, they easily breed undetected. That is, until you are faced with an infestation that can easily go out of control. However, there are some early signs you can pay attention to.

In addition, by understanding the key differences in their appearance, you will know what actions you are supposed to take to manage the infestation. Bed bugs are ¼ of an inch long, oval shaped, with reddish-brown bodies.

They resemble small apple seeds and are flat and semi-translucent. As a result, they can easily hide in tight spaces and crevices in and around your bed. They usually stay dormant during the day and come out at night to feed.

Although they are very small and flat, their body mass increases dramatically after feeding, which is when they become red and swollen. Although bed bugs have wing pads on both sides of their head, they are wingless.

In other words, they are not able to fly, so they move around by crawling. Also, they have big eyes that protrude from their head. Immature bed bugs are called nymphs and resemble adults but are smaller and lighter in color.

On the other hand, carpet beetles are also small, but the main difference between them and bed bugs is their size. More specifically, carpet beetles are smaller and they only reach up to 1/8 of an inch in length. However, they can sometimes grow to the size of a ladybug.

They usually have a black and yellow color pattern, but the combination of black and blue is common as well. Like all beetles, they have a pair of hardened wings and another set of membranous wings. Unlike the bed bugs, they are able to fly across the room.

Their larvae are worm-like creatures covered in small hairs or bristles, approximately ¼ of an inch long. The adults have an antenna, divided in 11 segments and shaped like a club. As for their eyes, they are small and very hard to spot.

7. Diet and Feeding Habits

carpet beetle damage
bed bug damage

The main difference between bed bugs and carpet beetles is in their diet. The former feeds on your blood and causes damage to your skin, while the latter usually only causes damage to your belongings.

Through all development stages, bed bugs require a diet of blood to survive and breed. Therefore, they feed exclusively on your and your pet’s blood and are not able to forage for other sources of food.

They need to feed directly from the host and can’t rely on scavenging for spilt blood. This is believed to be related to a mixture of factors, including temperature and pressure.

Most of the time, bed bugs crawl out from their hideouts and feed on you and your pets at night, within a limited range of their nest. However, if they have been deprived of food for too long, they will break this pattern and come out during the day to feed as well.

Bed bugs usually feed once every week. Generally speaking, adult bed bugs can survive up to five months without a meal, under ideal conditions. However, young bed bugs or nymphs need a blood meal before each of their five molt stages.

On top of that, females need blood to be able to lay their eggs. In those cases, they can feast on your blood once each day.

Thanks to the anesthetics and anticoagulants in their saliva, you won’t feel the bed bugs biting even though they will pierce your skin with their sharp, straw-like mouth. A typical meal takes between three to ten minutes.

After a bed bug is gorged with your blood, it will crawl back to its hiding spot to digest the meal, mate and lay eggs – all before it comes out to eat again. Bed bugs have a distinctive feeding pattern. They will first feed on the spots where your bare skin is exposed against the bedding.

Then, they will move up and create a distinctive line of bites. They can sense your presence from up to 3 feet away and are guided by the CO2 you breathe out as well as the warmth and moisture your body creates.

On the other hand, carpet beetles prefer pollen and nectar in their diet. They don’t feed on blood, but once they end up inside your house, they expand their diet to include hair, fur, silk, wool, clothes and other fibrous material.

Therefore, they can cause serious damage to your carpets, fabrics and furniture. However, the threat to your belongings comes exclusively from larva, as they feed on a variety of animal-based materials.

The presence of adult carpet beetles simply indicates that there could be larvae around your home as well as an active infestation. They avoid synthetic fabrics such as polyester or even rayon, unless these are soiled with food stains or natural, body oils.

Carpet beetles feed in the dark and quiet places such as closets, attics, boxes with wool, fur and air ducts. They also prefer places where they can find lint, pet hair and other tasty bits of debris.

8. Scientific Differences

Bed bugs belong to the Cimicidae family of true bugs and they develop from egg to nymph and then to adult. They have the same feeding behavior and habits through their entire life cycle. In addition, they have a mouth made for piercing your skin and sucking blood.

Bed bugs hatch from eggs, have no larvae stage and go through a complete metamorphosis. Although unpleasant, there are no known diseases transmitted through their bites.

Carpet beetles belong to the Dermestid family of beetles and have a mouth made for chewing on plants and other fibrous materials. They do not bite humans, but the bristles that are all over their larvae may cause irritation when they come in contact with your skin.

They hatch into a larva and go through a complete metamorphosis as well. Immature beetles are worm-like creatures and have different food and habitat preferences compared to adults.

There are three main carpet beetle species – varied, furniture and black – that are similar in appearance but vary in color.

9. Behavior and Needs

bed bug

Bed bugs are dependent on your blood for their growth cycle and their behavior is based around invading, multiplying and taking over the nooks and crevices usually around and in your bed.

They tend to stay close to you and come out at night to feed, while staying hidden during the day. A female bed bug lays between 1 and 12 eggs a day, which adds up to between 200 and 500 eggs for a lifetime.

Once hatched, young bed bugs go through 5 nymph stages until they reach adulthood. In this process, they become larger and darker until they reach maturity in around two months. The average lifespan of adult bed bug is from 4 months to over a year, depending on the conditions.

Carpet beetles don’t need humans to survive and end up in our homes accidentally. As mentioned, they will not bite you, but may cause skin irritations and dermatitis.


Pest problems are very common. If you are waking up with a strange, itchy rash, or you start to notice that your carpets and furniture are being damaged by a creature’s bites, then you are probably facing a bed bug or a carpet beetle infestation.

The first thing that comes to mind when you think about bugs crawling and flying around your home is that there must be some problem related to your cleaning routine. However, having bed bugs and carpet beetles is not a sign of dirtiness, as they are mainly brought in from the outside.

It is very important to know the difference between these two, so you can determine the right course of action and the best possible way to deal with the infestation.



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