Woolly bears are not an uncommon sight in museums. As part of the pest management programme at the Fitzwilliam Museum, we have to keep an eye on numbers as they can cause a lot of irreversible damage to some of the collections.
We thought it’d be a good idea to get to know them a bit better:
You’re not very big…
No, I’m less than 5mm big….but I’m not actually a bear.
What are you then?
I’m an athrenus larva. I probably got the nickname ‘woolly bear’ because I am short, fat and hairy.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A carpet beetle.
What’s your favourite food?
I can eat a lot! I love organic food – fur, feathers, wool, that kind of stuff. You can often find me in birds’ nests and animal homes.
So, are you more of an outdoorsy creature then?
Not necessarily. During the spring and summer, carpet beetles can be found in the UK outside, but they often lay eggs in cracks and crevices of buildings. We can thrive indoors and I’m so small I can easily get in. There’s plenty to eat indoors (there’s a reason why the adults are called carpet beetles).
Do you like museums?
LOVE museums. Great places to visit – plenty to eat. There are also lots of dark corners where I can be left undisturbed.
Should I be worried if I find you in my house?
Hmm, not necessarily. You might find adult carpet beetles, or the cast skins that we shed as we grow. If there’s just one or two, then you may not have a problem. But, if the conditions are right, we can grow and reproduce quite quickly and cause a lot of damage to things like wool carpets. If you don’t want us moving in, probably best to make sure you vacuum in corners and under furniture occasionally. Check your woolly jumpers and all that taxidermy in the loft every now and again too…