BUG OF THE WEEK!

This is the beginning of what should become an epic portion of South Dakota Bugs… introducing the “Bug of the Week”!  The Bug of the Week will be a weekly posting that will focus on a single, South Dakota native insect and give you the run down on its identification, biology, and what makes this insect particularly awesome.

This week’s bug of the week is none other than the varied carpet beetle, Anthrenus verbasci (Linnaeus).  This particular beetle belongs to the family Dermestidae or commonly referred to as the dermestid beetles.  It is a common insect to find within homes, warehouses, museums, or any other location that provides adequate food supplies.

IDENTIFICATION

The varied carpet beetle adult is approximately 1/10 inch long.  It has a black body with irregular white, brown, and yellow-orange patterns stretching across the elytra or wing coverings.   However, as the adults age, the scales that form the irregular pattern and colors can wear off and reveal an all-black bodied beetle.  Their antennae, though short, are comprised of 11 segments with a club of 3 segments at the end.

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Varied carpet beetle eggs are incredibly small and ovular in shape.  They could easy be mistaken for a speck of dirt or debris, if noticed at all.  The eggs are oviposited around various locations and require approximately two weeks to fully develop depending on temperatures and humidity.

The larvae are ¼ inch long, dark brown, hairy caterpillar-like creatures.  The hairs can be used for defense and may be irritating when they come in contact with skin.  The larvae go through 7-8 molts (shedding of exoskeleton) over an extended length of time- 7-11 months!

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WHY BUG OF THE WEEK?

The varied carpet beetle has earned its place as bug of the week because of its palate.  While the adults seek out pollen or nectar to feed upon, the larvae choose a much different food selection…

Larvae of the varied carpet beetle are scavengers to say the least.  “But what do they scavenge?” you ask…  Well none other than a variety of animal products such as carpet fibers, leather, wool, feathers, horns, and bones.  They also tend to feed on various grains, dried peppers, and other plant matter.  But what bothers me as an entomologist is that they also feed on dead insects!  This especially worrisome for those of us that have insect collections on display or tucked away in our offices or homes.  All it takes is one carpet beetle larvae to squeeze into your collection box to ruin years of effort.

And it is because of this exceptional ability to eat the things we may take for granted that I salute you, varied carpet beetle!

GREAT IT’S BUG OF THE WEEK!  BUT HOW DO I GET RID OF IT???

Easy…  Sanitation!  Good sanitation practices are the most effective way to prevent and remove any carpet beetle problems.  Dry cleaning woolen or other tasty garments before storing them for long periods of time and sweeping carpets on a regular basis is a sure fire way to prevent infestations.

Please note that I do not take any credit for these photos (unfortunately)!  I found these online, but there was no credit information to site…  If you took these photos- well done!  And I hope you don’t mind me showcasing your work!!!

A tale of two bad bugs: bed bug vs bat bug

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It’s unseasonably warm for a winter in South Dakota. Yet, we have not seen many outdoor bugs. Indoor bug, unfortunately, is another story. This winter, we’ve had sightings of the bug deemed worthy to be called the most evil animal by Time Magazine: bed bugs. Yes, bed bugs are on the prowl, even here in South Dakota.

Interestingly enough, among the submissions to Diagnostic Clinic at SDSU, some of the bugs showed decidedly different characteristics. It turned out that we have some bat bugs mixed in with the bed bugs submission.

In the picture above, bed bug (Cimex lectularius) is the specimen on the left while bat bug (Cimes pilosellus) is the specimen on the right. Compared to bed bugs, bat bugs have longer hairs all over their bodies, as hopefully shown in the picture above. While both can feed on human, bat bugs feed primarily on bats as the name implies. Thus, bat bug infestation usually coincides with bats making home in the same structure. Bat bugs do not fare well when limited on human blood diet and consequently do not cause a prolonged infestation problem that bed bugs can pose.

Inspecting the rooms where the bugs are found is crucial. Look for bugs in seams, creases and folds of the mattress and box springs. Search the bed frame and head board thoroughly. In advanced stage of infestation, the bugs may also hide anywhere in the room, such as behind electrical switch plates, plaster cracks, underneath the rugs, etc. Cleaning all the clothes and linens in hot water and vacuuming the room and furniture thoroughly may help. Eventually, getting rid of bed bugs is tricky and if infestation continues it may be best left to pest control professionals.