Control carpet beetles with thorough cleanup

garden q&a

January 24, 2009|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

I found little bugs under my mattress, but I've seen them before along where the ceiling meets the wall. Please tell me they are not bedbugs!

Your photos show the larvae of a carpet beetle. These tiny oval beetles are in the Dermestid insect family. Their diet of organic materials ranges from wool, silk, fur, feathers and food items such as grains, spices, dog food and birdseed, to the occasional mouse or animal remains in your attic or basement.

Control of carpet beetles is primarily prevention - clean, clean, clean. Thoroughly vacuum along baseboards, under furniture and in closets. Be sure to clean wool clothing before storage. Soiled wool is particularly attractive to carpet beetles.

I am planning to establish a bird and butterfly garden with my grandchildren and neighborhood children. Do you know sources for free or inexpensive native plants?

For inexpensive native plants, check out periodic plant sales at parks, arboretums and nature centers such as the Irvine Nature Center in Baltimore County, the National Arboretum and the Adkins Arboretum in Caroline County. Many native plant nurseries in Maryland offer reasonably priced plants, too.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at


* Do not melt ice with granular garden fertilizer. It is very corrosive to concrete and metal, can burn plants and can contribute to waterway pollution.

* Check first for low-light conditions or overwatering when you notice leaf yellowing or leaf drop on houseplants.

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