The carpet beetle, or "buffalo moth" (Anthrenus scrophulariae L.)


Material Information

The carpet beetle, or "buffalo moth" (Anthrenus scrophulariae L.)
Physical Description:
Howard, L. O ( Leland Ossian ), 1857-1950
United States. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Entomology ( Washington, D.C )
Publication Date:

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aleph - 29681820
oclc - 150469053
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Full Text
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L. 0. HOWARD. Llomolt and Chief ol bureau.

THIE (AIII'ET IE'TIE, OR111 Jv 1*1 F l w- l fll." ,,
(A.4;nthremm 'nru{phulbirii l.l*41
Ir iJ,, ). kIl owAii I- .. ti ,1'I,

i. 1:1%,:i\l ', li i \(T' AN1 )i T'Illo )l I1rii1.
A ll the yeair ;ir iiin l. ill % **ll-1ir.111-'l 11111-~ l l wn'K fro-1ii11 ill 1%,
su erii r.aid fll, 1iti've browni larva a .ji.trle r (d atnm 4 ii
leng(hti uii[ .liold \tith nilT brow n hairs, which are li.i, r around the
,* I -Tl. .I


.l1'i I.- Tine c~AllrL l l*tfe ( atArniu* gfophitlarur)j: a. Larva. dorsial v'w; 6, pb ni
I t lai Iav l -iti; I 1tiu ventrati Ntt: d dtull All tiitlir d tfrown Rkt f

hil,.es alni .-till 1,mapr at the ends than on the back, f,.,.I- upon carpets
andi wolen d i, .. >rk in in a Iii.l hii manner fri, the under surface,
soniltint.s in.iklin., li id,-, hut m ore frt-li,.ii1 ly f,,!l,,\, in,. the
line of a lhiir crack and cultin l,.'ii slits in a irp-t.

I I I I I 1 1 'i .
This insect in Ithl Iiii., Sl.iis,.- is known as a carpet beetle *,nly in
the northern pm-rt of the ,intrv. It is not known as a i .irj, t 1-mtllc in
\V;i.hinh tii nor 1.iltiii,,re, .iltimiili in \\.i-tiii ,t,,n and in laces
in tht more southern S.i- it has been owc-casionally mniet with during
'Tlhi circular iM ipr'pare'dl fir u in correspondence, .ri i is a c',mpilatiun


the pa.t few, both indoors and outdoors. In Philadelphia it is
not uoiimiiau, but it abounds in New York, Boston, all the New Eng-
land States, and west through Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin,
Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas. It is originally a European insect, and is
I'undl in all parts of Europe. It was imported into this country about
1.,74, 1 probably almost simultaneously at New York and Boston. The
Anthrenus lepidus of LeConte, from the Pciific cast, formerly con-
sidered as a variety of scrophulari', but now believed to be a distinct
species, has not been known to attack carpets so far as we are aware.


The adult insect is a iiiuiite, broad-oval beetle, about three-sixteenths
of an inch log. black in colr. but cov-redl with exceedingly minute
SA,ls. which give it a marbled black-and-white appearance. It has
also a red stripe down the middle of the liank, widening into projections
at three intervals. When disturbed it "plays 'possum," folding up its
legs and antenna and feiniinig death. As a general thing the beetles
b-gini to appear in the fall, and continue to issue, in heated houses,
tlor-ugliout the winter and fll]\\iiag spring. Soon after issuing they
pair, and the females lay their eggs in convenient spots. The eggs
hatchl, under favorable ',._tioina. in a few days. and the larviae, with
plenty of food, develop quite rapidly. Their development is retarded
by cold weather or by lack of food, and they remain alive in the larval
state, under such conditions, and particularly in dry atmosphere, for an
almost indefinite period, molting frequently and feeding upon their cast
skins. Under normal condlitions, however, the skin is cast about six
times, and there are, probably, in the North, not more than two annual
generations. When the larva reaches full growth the yellowish pupa
is formed within the last larval skin. Eventually this skin splits down
the back and reveals the pupa. from which the beetle emerges later.
The beetles are day-flyers, and when not engaged in egg-laying are
attracted to the light. They fly to the windows, and may often be
found upon the sills or panes. Where they can tly out through an open
window they do so. and are strongly attracted to the ltiowers of certain
plants, particularly of the family Scrophul.riacea'. but also to certain
Composite', such as milfoil (Achillea millefolium). The flowers of
Spira;-a are also strongly attractive to the beetles. It is probable, how-
ever, that this ,mir.ati,,n from the house takes,. under ordinary
Sir,'un,-t:ne;es, after the eggs have been laid.
In ELr,,pe the insect is not especially noted as a household pest, and
we are inclined to think that this is owing to the fact that carpets are
little used. In fact, we believe that only where carpets are extensively
'Prof. Samuel Henshaw has rvetjrdeld it from Bw'toi:. Mass.. a. early' as 1864.
(P -. ,. VI, p. .7--'.)

used are the ,,ii,,litii,, favorable for the Li, increased of the inisect.
t'.IItI,-t once put 1down are seldm1 tak, u| tfr a I 1, and in the
meantiuie the insect detvIlps unint erruptdly. \Ihr I I i r I r e p i l-
ished ril.i,, and where I n..- are a:d,- l, or straw 10 latti,- anid i .- tIhe
rug%, are .tii i taken iili and beaten, an l inI the 11 r wJ ay w l e\L n, aInd
firs are never ,l1<." I to remain undistur.t1 r.eI ain I ntir yI ar. It is a
1tfllk,,kii'n I.I t hat ti< <'rHt hI I it i a bail m f m o I thI er pIinits of
view, and there i little d ther ittl o>tthat at IIwtS Ie Ii t arid inf ,li-I
I.r tI tl il i ouir NortIhern States tih ',il i I._ will e irtuilly 1I:IsL
to be a hoIsciold insect i importance. Tiie insect is k1nwtn i'I IIurim''
as a iu1Iseun L" -I lIu I Iothas inot I II j i this hIrII It to 1! _'i i t exteit
in thi- country. It is kn w in to hiv t his i ilhabit in (';rt.mi.T.' M I--
and DitrA i Mi l. a L ,> 11 as in San Francisr, Cal., hmut not in otKer
localities In .Ill ,f these tree iases it has bten imp irt in insect G -ll i, ,,-

Th',rii-nwi, house elAani,,,j.-'lirn, i ni way Ito keel)p fII i i|, p
beetle in check. W\\', it hias lln1c 1 taken ip ( sssi s(it of a lhouse mnoth-
ing but the most l.,.r'tiig, and l, ,..i ,, iii, I ii .snri' will eradicate it.
'hiv pr.tli., iif liii- I.- 1, i1ii. bu-It otIce annually, so often careh1ssly and
lurriidly prlii i-. ais we have shown above, peculiarly favorable
to the development ,i the insect. T, i hiouse I, ,.i, 'H. ould lite better
than one, .,I'l if but one, it would be better to undertake it in ijid-
summiner than at any other time of the year. Where convenience or
eNnservatismn demands an adlherence t tto e old i-..i.1 however, wV
have -inply to insist upon extreme 'li,,.,i l,-- and a -liht variation
in the, a-timI,,iry methods. The roors should lie attended to one or
two at a time. .TI carpets should! ie taken up, 'I-..i ,, i ly beaten,
and spr.,yd out of dioors with I. i, in, anid allowed to air for several
hours. TIi. rooms themselves shoumli be thoroughly swept and dusted.
the foir:z washed down with hot water, the cracks , fm'-ly cleaned
nut, and kerosene or benzine poured into the cracks and sprayed under
the baseboards. The extreme iniirl,1,1.1ihilil, of bhneine, and even r.1
it- %.ip,,r when ,.ilin,.I. should be remembered and ir, carefully
t.uirde.,l *.i in-t. \Where the lili.r- are poorly constructed andl the
cracks are "Aidn, it will he a _'..," idea to ill the cracks with plaster of
\Paris in a liqu id state; this will .ift,.r .ir,- set and lessen the number
of h1 rl,,rill;" places for the insect. Before rela2, ill_ the carpet, tarred
rotiin i:i i niull be laid upon the i1 at least around tlie _',.-.
hut preferahly over the entire -iirl;,i and when thew iI, is relaid it
will be "ell to tack it down rather ligill. so that t can be t i i-, ilyi
lifted at the edPe, and examined for the presence i the insect. LaIter
iu the sreas.,n, if such an examination shows the insert to have mIade
its appearmnte, a gi,,,l though somewhat laborioms remedy consists in


3 1262 09216 5769
laying a damp cloth smoothly over the suspected spot of the carpet and
irniing it with a hot iron. The steam thus generated will pass through
the carpet and kill the insects immediately beneath it.
Bisulphid of carbon.-An effective method of ridding the premises of
S:;irpt-t beetles as well as other household insects consists in fumigation
with bisulphid of carbon vapor. The employment of this substance in
destroying various classes of insects is treated of in Farmers' Bulletin
1445, of this Departinent, the nmethod of use against household insects
ein..r given on page 21. Owing to the extremely inflammable nature
of the gas great care should be taken that there is no fire in the house
when the fuiiiiga;ition is in process. The inhaling of the vapor should
also be avoided.
The hiidr',,eyi h acid gas treatment.--Iydrocyanic acid gas has for
the past ten years been used to exterminate household insect pests and
other vermin, and is the most effective remedy known for this purpose.
It must be used, however, with the greilest rautdion, as it is extremely
poisonous and bmadll to human beings as well a.s to the lower forms of
animal life. Great care must be exercised also in handling the poison-
ous chemicals-potassium cyaniil uald sulphuric acid-used in gener-
;iting the ,a.s. ('ircular No. 46, Revised Edition. of this Bureau,
explains fully the method of use, and this should be studied well before
the treatment is undertaken.
Sulphur dioxid.-The fumes of burning sulphur, consisting of sulphur
dioxid with some sulphur trioxid, have been in use for many years for
the destruction of insect pests of the household, notably the bedbug,
and will undoubtedly kill the carpet beetle as well if the fumigation is
thorough. Its use is explained on pages 44 and 45 of Farmers' Bulletin
127, Second Revisilon, of this Department.

The only hope of the good housekeeper where the system of heavy
carpets covering the entire floor surface is adhered to lies in the strenu-
ous measures expl.ained above. Good housekeepers are conservative
people, but we expect eventually to see a general adoption of the rug
or of the square of carpet. -which may be readily examined at all times
and treated if found necessary. Where the floors are bad the practice
of laying straw inattings under the rugs produces a sightly appearance,
and, while not as cleanly as a bare floor, affords still fewer harboring
places for this insect.
Approved :
J.\.M1E., W lI..xO)N,
S',-cr firy of Agriculture.

W.\-IIIlFT ON, D. C., July 16, 1908.