Household Horror aka Beetle Tales

Carpet Beetle Larvae (about 6mm long)

In a huge shift in tone from my last post about a pretty dress, I want to to talk about beetles. Carpet Beetles to be precise. The above picture is a carpet beetle larvae which I recently discovered luxuriating in a piece of abandoned knitting. Disgusting, yes, but also very damaging to fabrics and a bugger to get rid of.

When a previous attempt at a cardigan got forgotten about some months ago (what was I thinking? - I hate knitting ribbing), the portion of ribbing I had knitted got shoved to the back of the living room sideboard. Yesterday I took out the knitting to unravel it, as I had decided to use the wool to start a new pattern. As I unravelled, I realised that the small ball of wool still attached to the knitted piece came loose from the piece after a few rows. Strange. Then, stretching the knitting out, I saw the holes:


I quickly realised what the culprit was, as I had found a carpet beetle larvae in another piece of knitting in the same sideboard months earlier, although as it had not caused damage I wasn't particularly worried at the time. This time too, when I shook the knitting, the horrible beast was revealed, and I realised that I might have a problem.

I have been familiar with the carpet beetle larvae for a number of years, although have only recently discovered what they are called. I have lived in many flats where I have seen the odd one or two larvae (and more rarely, a beetle) and thought 'Ugh!', but I have never before thought about the damage they can do. But now they seem to have taken up residence in my beloved sideboard and are eating my knitting - this is war! For some reason the larvae are sometimes known by the rather quaint name of 'Woolly Bears'. I am rechristening them 'Hairy Little Bastards', as this seems much more appropriate.

At the minute I am very much hoping that the problem is confined to the sideboard. Partly because I can't bear to think that they might start popping up anywhere else in the flat. Unfortunately I have just started storing my fabric in the sideboard, so I am going to have to find somewhere else to put it. I have already taken some action to try and tackle the issue and will be continuing to do so this weekend. This action is:
  1. Removing any scrap fabric items (fabric scraps, gauge swatches, odds and ends of wool) and throwing them in the bin
  2. Freezing any items that I am not throwing out - they need to be put in a plastic bag in the freezer and frozen for 48-72 hours, thawed and then re-frozen again. I'm going to have to freeze the fabric in batches, so it will take a while
  3. Removing all items from the sideboard
  4. Thoroughly hoovering inside the sideboard
  5. Moving the sideboard out and hoovering under it - the beetles love dark, undisturbed areas
  6. Sprinkling Borax inside the sideboard to kill any remaining beasts - that is if I can find any Borax, it's been hard to track down so far. Borax substitute is the closest I can get and I have no idea if it's any good, so I would rather get the real thing. Also as we have 2 cats, I think this is the safest option.
  7. Grumbling as I have to freeze my fabric in batches and find a new place to store it
  8. Fretting that the beasts will have taken up residence elsewhere in the flat
I should make it clear that the above larvae is the only one I've recently found, but after having seen the damage, I'm not taking any chances. I promise that my house is generally pretty clean, but I do feel like I am revealing a shameful secret with this post, but hopefully it might help someone else avoid the horror of the Hairy Little Bastards.

You can find out more about carpet beetles here but briefly,

How do you know if you have carpet beetles?
There are several different types of carpet beetles as well as the larder beetle, which are various shapes and colours, but the larvae of all the beetles are very similar to the one at the top of the post, with a segmented body covered in hairs. It is the larvae you will see most often, as well as the discarded 'skins'. You can also look for unexplained holes in clothing and stored items, as seen above, which look different to moth damage. Moth damage typically consists of lots of little holes which look like the item has been shot with shot gun pellets.

How do you make things as inhospitable as possible for the beasts?
They like dark, undisturbed areas, so cupboards, wool and fabric stashes and the backs of drawers are the perfect homes for them. They prefer soiled items so make sure clothes etc are clean before being tidied away, however all types of fabric are vulnerable - wool, fur, feathers, skins and silks ie. all your favourite and best natural fibres. Make sure you hoover frequently, particularly around the edges of carpets and in difficult to reach areas - they hate good housekeeping!

What do you do if you do have them?
From what I've read online, you can freeze fabric items that are at risk, or alternatively wash them at high temperatures. As above, you need to be handy with the hoover, and be vigilant for larvae and damage.

Have you had any problems storing your wool or fabric due to bugs and beasts? If you have any tips about getting rid of them I'd love to know! I've heard some horror stories about moths recently too. 

K x


  1. Yikes! I have had moths flying in my cupboards before. I had to throw out all of my food, but luckily my knitting (many of which I keep in zip lock bags) were free of the boogers.

  2. Hi Susan, glad to hear your knitting was safe, it's quite horrifying to find bugs eating your things!

  3. Ugh you have my sympathy! I had a massive problem with these in a rented flat a few years ago but I didn't know what they were or the damage they could do (this was pre-my sewing/crochet days). I had to keep the edges of the carpets (by the skirting boards) constantly covered in some white powder stuff I'd bought, hoover up the dead ones every few days and then re-sprinkle. Couldn't seem to get rid of them permanently. Hope you manage to eradicate them though, can't have them invading your stashes!

    I'm itchy now...

  4. Oh thanks Lucy! I know, it makes you feel horrible to know that they are lurking about. So far the problem doesn't seem to have spread beyond the sideboard, and I haven't seen more than one recently but I'm paranoid about it now.

  5. I thinkthese maybe what I found in my old rag doll that my mum made for me. While visiting my mum's house a few weeks ago I pulled the doll from the back of a linen cupboard to find her wool hair had little dead beetles in. We cut the hair off but it was hard to see if any beetles had got into her head (made from a stuffed white sock). Maybe now she needs a spell in the freezer before she gets new hair. She looks a bit creepy bald!

  6. GROSSS! I can empathize, I just recently discovered a few holes in one of my cardigans due to moths! I haven't found more since, but it definitely made me feel like I was being struck with a plague!

  7. Ugh!
    I made a similar discoverry last week and have been having carpet beetle larvae nightmares ever since. I saw a couple under my bed and hanging around in a corner in my bedroom. Then I decided to look into the 2 shopping bags of yarn I had next to the bed for a few months. After examining the surface of the yarn, I saw nothing (but I didn't shake them). However, at the very bottom of each bag, I did find one carpet beetle each. I put the yarn in ziplock bags, but have not treated it in any way.
    My question for you is this:
    Do you know if they could have burrowed deep into the hank of yarn without any visible surface damage or would I have seen it?

  8. Hi Springfourth
    I would recommend sealing and then freezing each of the bags for a couple of weeks. You can do this in your home freezer. Industrial freezers go much colder than domestic freezers so you wouldn't need to freeze for that long if using one of those, but if you use your freezer at home I would recommend freezing for 2-3 weeks to be sure. Maybe you could try emptying the bags and shaking the yarn first or hoovering it carefully. Then of course make sure that the surface you have done this on is thoroughly cleaned!


Thanks for reading and commenting - I love to hear what you have to say