Is Your Carpet An Insect Inn?

From an insect point of view carpets are a cosy hotel offering camouflage from human eyes and 24 hour room service. Dropped crumbs and dead skill cells provide an endless food supply, not to mention the pile itself which is considered gourmet by some insects. The only potential downfall of the carpet hotel is the vacuum cleaner, though by relocating to outskirts, where the carpet meets the wall, insects can find respite from the terror of suction.

One insect which resists in many carpets is the house dust mite. These microscopic insects primarily live on dead skin cells. They don’t carry diseases, but they can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics and others who are allergic to their faeces. Since the average human sloughs off 10 grams of dead skin a week dust mites never go hungry.

Fleas flourish in the warmth of a nice, fleecy pile and also live off dead skin, but they are fond of digested blood from adult flea feces, hair and other organic debris. Most fleas overwinter in the larval or pupal stage with survival and growth best in spring or a warm, moist winter when the heating gets switched on. Adult fleas cannot survive or lay eggs without a blood meal, but may live for one year without feeding. The adult fleas fully develop inside a pupal cocoon a kind of “limbo” until it’s time to hatch and spring forth creating merry havoc for its victims.

Carpet beetles pupate in March following hibernation throughout the winter months. On emergence the adult beetles seek light, normally the closest window, so throw the windows open when you give your home a good clean. The eggs are cream coloured and about 0.5 mm long. The larva which usually emerges in spring is known as woolly bears which are hairy and about 2–4mm long, and may be brown, black or mottled brown/grey/ cream. As the larvae hatch, they eat through their surroundings, feasting on woollen fabrics, carpets and clothes, even wool/synthetic mixtures, but do not attack pure synthetic fibres.

Another guest in the carpet hotel may be bed bugs. They can’t fly and are normally found within 15-feet of the bed, usually in the mattress and foundation/box springs but sometimes they favour the edge of the carpet. If you suspect an infestation, vacuum tight to the skirting, especially near the head of the bed then deposit the vacuum cleaner bag immediately in a sealed bin. Steam cleaning carpets is good, but must be done before pesticide applications, so coordinate efforts with your pest control professional.

Prevention is far better than cure. Vacuum your carpet thoroughly, moving furniture away from the walls and get right underneath sofas and beds to evict unwanted insect guests who want to take a spring break within the comfort of your carpet.

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  1. Matt Green
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