An adult biscuit beetle © Sarefo (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

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Golden spider beetle (Niptus hololeucus) identification guide

The golden spider beetle, Niptus hololeucus, is so called from its golden yellow, silky hair and its spider like appearance. The beetle has a preference for dark moist places and will occasionally infest textiles. It will migrate and can be found in dark areas often in considerable numbers. Although it increasingly common in domestic premises this beetle is not harmful to health.

Identification

Adults have a large globular abdomen, narrow thorax (the central part of the beetle) and rounded head with long segmented antennae. They have a body length of 3-4.5mm and its upper thorax and elytra (wing case) are entirely hidden by golden yellow hairs. They have long thin legs.

The larvae are yellow-white grubs with a brown head and a curled c-shape. You will rarely see the beetles during the day as they are nocturnal and spend the day in dark cracks and crevices.

Habitat

In the wild the golden spider beetle will seek out dark areas, so they are often be found in poorly lit rooms such as store rooms, attics and cellars. As general scavengers, they will eat a wide range of natural material such as vegetable and animal debris, so are frequently associated with old birds’ nests and found amongst stored food.

Distribution

  • USA and Canada
  • Central and South America
  • Europe and Northern Asia
  • Mediterranean Basin
  • South and South-East Asia
  • Australasia – Oceania

Life Cycle

Although the larvae will feed mainly on woolens and natural silks, attacking textiles, they can actually survive on any material of natural origin. The female golden spider beetle lays 20 to 40 eggs which then hatch after 11 to 30 days, this usually happens only once a year.

The larval stage, which is where most of the damage is carried out, may last for up to 250 days. The larva then pupates, emerging as an adult beetle after a further 18 to 26 days. The adult beetles will live for up to approximately nine months, the peak activity reached being between August and November.

Damage and control

The golden spider beetle is a pest of stored food products such as grain, seeds, dried fruit, spices, fishmeal, dog biscuits, dried meat and tea. It is also found in wool, cotton, silk, feathers, leather, books and paper. The problem begins to occur at the larvae stage when they will begin to bore holes in which to pupate and in so doing may damage packaging and contaminating products with excrement and silk webbing.

To help eliminate an infestation, food should be kept in damp free and ventilated cupboards. Regularly clean your food storage units and remove any disused or old food. Cracks and crevices, which may provide harborages for the beetles, should be kept to a minimum. It is also important to ensure that there are no food residues.