How to Get Rid of Mattress Worms: What Causes Bed Worms

If you’ve ever found small, white, or dark worms in your mattress, you may have an issue with mattress worms. These creatures are actually the larvae of several different insects, including carpet beetles and fleas.

These bed worms can cause severe damage to your mattress and cause allergies to flare up. Fortunately, you can take a few simple steps to get rid of mattress worms for good.

Getting rid of mattress worms involves vacuuming, decluttering, steaming, and washing. We cover each step in detail below. As far as vacuuming goes just use one of the vacuum cleaners for bed bugs on our list.

What Are the Different Types of Mattress Worms?

Carpet Beetle Larvae

Size: 4-5 mm

Carpet Beetle Larvae - A common mattress worm

Even though their name is “carpet” beetles, you can find them all over, and not just on carpets. They are one of the common NYC bugs that you will find a dwelling in apartment buildings.

Meanwhile, I often find them under the mattress and along the track where the mattress sits on the bed frame.

You can distinguish them by the hairs all over their body. Furthermore, these hairs can cause bed bug-like reactions in some people who are allergic to them.

The carpet beetle larvae eat fibers like wool, silk, leather, hair, lint, dead insects, and plenty of other things around a bed. One of the best and easiest ways to prevent carpet beetles from infesting your bed is to thoroughly vacuum your entire mattress, frame, and headboard regularly.

Life Cycle of the Carpet Beetle

Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Pupae ➡️ Adult

Clothes Moth Larvae

Size: 0.5 inch

Clothing Moth Larvae - A common bed worm

Moth larvae are one stage in the clothes moth lifecycle. Additionally, they are small, wingless creatures that feed on fabric, carpets, dead skin cells, and other materials.

The clothes moth larvae are a similar mattress worm to the carpet beetle larvae in that they eat similar things. However, their appearance is different. A clothes moth larvae are shiny and white with a brown head.

More importantly, mattresses are a common breeding ground for moth larvae, as they provide an ideal environment for the larvae to develop and mature.

The moth larvae stage is the second stage in the lifecycle and typically lasts for around two weeks to 2.5 years.

The fact that they can remain in the larval stage for so long is one of the reasons why moth infestations can be so challenging to get rid of.

At the end of the moth larvae stage, they will spin a cocoon around themselves and transform into pupae. Furthermore, once they have emerged from their cocoons as adults, moths will mate and lay eggs, starting the cycle anew.

Moth larvae can cause damage to mattresses, fabrics, and other materials as they feed on them. In addition, they are one of the more common mattress worms that you may find.

Life Cycle of the Clothes Moth

Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Cocoon ➡️ Adult

Flea Larvae

Size: 2-5mm

Flea Lavae - A Common Mattress Worm

If you have a flea infestation, mattress worms are likely the larvae of fleas. Flea larvae are semi-white/translucent with a red digestive track that you can visibly see.

Recently we did a bed bug inspection for someone because they were reporting “bites.” However, we did not find bed bugs when we arrived but instead found flea larvae infesting the mattress and couch. Bed worms are one of the “fleas in bed: signs.”

Check out other bugs that look like fleas but are not here.

Unlike the carpet beetles and moths, flea larvae mainly feed on adult flea feces. In addition, the larvae need the flea poop to survive. However, they can feed on feathers and dead skin cells too.

For this reason, vacuuming is an essential first step in not letting mattress worms get out of hand.

Life Cycle of the Flea

Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Pupae ➡️ Adult


Size: 0.5 inches

pinworms - these are a common bed worm

Pinworms are tiny parasitic worms that infect the intestines of humans. They mainly live within your digestive tract, but some can make their way out and end up in your clothing or sheets.

The female pinworms leave the intestines travels to the anus and lay their eggs on the skin around the anus. The eggs and worms can cause itching, which spreads the infection. 

Thankfully, pinworm infections are relatively easy to treat with medication. However, it’s essential not to spread the parasites to others, particularly family members and close friends.

The eggs can live in your sheets or on anything you touch with your hands for two weeks. You can take precautions and reduce the spread by washing your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating.

It’s also essential to keep your mattress and bedding clean. Furthermore, you can do this by frequently washing and drying your bedding on high heat.

Life Cycle of the Pinworms

Egg ➡️ Embryonated Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Adult

Flour Beetle Larvae

Size: 4 – 5 mm (less than 1/8th of an inch)

Flour Beetle Larvae and Some Rice - Bed Worm if Your Kitchen is Infested

You will frequently find flour beetle larvae around your pantry. They can munch through grains like nobody’s business. They can destroy an entire pantry’s worth of food in a short period.

The slender flour beetle larvae are creamy yellow to light brown, depending on what they are eating.

The good news is that they don’t typically infest mattresses, however you can find a flour beetle wandering around your bedroom. More importantly they are not a common bed worm.

However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t find a few in your bed on occasion, especially if you eat in bed and leave behind a lot of crumbs.

Life Cycle of the Flour Beetles

Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Pupae ➡️ Adult

Indian Meal Moth Larvae

Size: 1.27 cm (1/2 inch)

Indian Meal Moth Larvae - they can become a bed worm problem if your house is infested

The Indian meal moth larvae go through 5-7 stages. However, the mature larvae are a bit bigger than some of the other mattress worms on this list.

These bed worms are usually an off-white color, but they can appear brown or green depending on what they are eating.

Indian meal moth larvae are not commonly infesting mattresses, but it can happen if you have an infestation in your kitchen. More importantly, if you do not keep up on vacuuming around your bed, the meal moth larvae can spread from your cupboards to your bed.

Sometimes we see the Indian meal moth larvae and the pupae underneath boxsprings and under the seams of the mattress.

Life Cycle of the Indian Meal Moth

Egg ➡️ Larvae ➡️ Pupae ➡️ Adult

What Are These Little Worms in My Bed?

If you see little worms in your bed, they may be carpet beetle larvae, pinworms, clothing moth larvae, flea larvae, or beetle larvae. The helpful news is that bed bugs do not undergo a “worm” stage. So if you see mattress worms, then at least you can rule out bed bugs.

What Causes Bed Worms?

Anyone who has ever dealt with bed worms knows how frustrating and annoying they can be. But what exactly causes bed worms, and how can you prevent them? One of the leading causes of bed worms is having a mattress that is cluttered or unclean.

When your bed is full of clutter, it provides a perfect hiding place for mattress worms to feed on debris. Vacuuming regularly can help reduce the risk of infestation and keep your bed clean and free of clutter.

Another cause of bed worms is simply not keeping an eye on things. If you don’t inspect your mattress regularly, you may not notice worms under your box spring or on your bed frame until it’s too late. By being vigilant and checking your mattress regularly, you can help to prevent a mattress worm infestation.

How Do You Get Rid of Mattress Worms?

Any mattress owner knows that one of the keys to a good night’s sleep is a clean mattress. But sometimes, even the most diligent housekeepers can end up with mattress worms.

You’ll find these tiny, white, brown, clear, and yellow larvae in a bedroom with lots of clutter. Dirty bedding will give the bed worms more things to feed on.

Luckily, you can take a few easy steps to get rid of mattress worms for good.

Step 1: Stand Up Your Mattress

The first step is to stand up your mattress. Standing up your mattress will allow you to see what’s going on under your bed and identify any areas that need to be vacuumed or cleaned.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the mattress worms, keep your bedroom clean and clutter-free to prevent them from coming back.

Step 2: Vacuum

Vacuuming around your mattress, box spring, bed frame, moldings, and headboard will be the most important thing you can do. To start, vacuum your mattress thoroughly to remove any larvae, adult insects, or eggs that may be present. The vacuum will physically remove the larvae and eggs.

Furthermore, be sure to empty the vacuum right away so you prevent them from hatching inside of the vacuum.

Step 3: Wash in Hot Water

Then, wash all of your bedding in hot water to kill any remaining larvae.

Step 4: Mattress Encasement

Get a mattress encasement, which will help with bed worms, dust mites, and bed bugs. A mattress cover will help minimize the seams and creases around your mattress and zip in any eggs or larvae that you missed while vacuuming.

Step 5: Prevention

You may also need to treat your mattress with a natural cedar or peppermint-based spray like wondercide to prevent future infestations.

If you have a severe infestation, you may need to call a professional pest control company to help get rid of the mattress worms. With a little effort, you can free your bed of mattress worms and get back to having a good night’s sleep.

Step 6: Crack and Crevice Sealing

Take some calk and seal up all the cracks and crevices around your bed. Doing this will minimize places where eggs and larvae can hang out.

Do Bed Bugs Ever Look Like Worms?

No, bed bugs do not look like worms. Bed bugs do not have a larval stage, where they look like a worm. However, they are small, reddish-brown insects that feed on blood and have a nymph stage.

The bed bug nymphs look just like the adult bed bug and do not look like a worm. They are flattened from top to bottom, which allows them to hide in small crevices. On the other hand, Worms are long and thin and can even be a larval stage of a beetle or moth.

Help, Tiny White Worms in My Bed, What Are They?

If you find tiny white worms in your bed they can be either the Indian meal moth, pinworms, or even a clothes moth larvae.

Tiny Brown Worms in My Bed, What Are They?

Indian meal moth larvae can be brown depending on what they are eating. Since you can see the flea larvae’s digestive tract, it can also appear brownish-red since they feed on flea feces.

What Is a Translucent, Small Clear Worm in My Bed?

A flea larva is translucent with a reddish digestive tract. If you see a translucent worm in your bed, it might be the larvae of a flea.

Help! I have Dried Tapeworm Segments in My Bed!

Tapeworms are transmitted from eating or drinking contaminated water or food. When you or your pet ingests tapeworm larvae, they will develop into adult tapeworms within your intestines.

If you find tapeworm segments in your bed, it’s time to see a doctor or veterinarian. Dealing with a tapeworm issue is usually solved by taking some anti-parasitic medicine prescribed by your doctor.

One of my old dogs had a tapeworm issue because they ate some rotting fish on a beach. It wasn’t until I saw the tapeworm segment come out in her poop that I took her to the vet. The vet gave her a few pills, which was the end of it.

What is a Fabric Worm?

Fabric worms are the larvae of clothes moths or carpet beetles. Both of these “worms” feed on fabric, and they can cause a lot of damage to clothes and other textile items. Clothing moth larvae are yellowish to white with a brown head. On the other hand, carpet beetle larvae are brown to light tan with an amazing hairy body.

The best way to get rid of fabric worms is to put your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes. A dryer will kill the larvae. You can also take your clothes to the dry cleaners, destroying the fabric worms.

Lastly, you can use one of those bed bug heaters to heat treat all of your clothing. The bed bug heater will work to kill any fabric worm larvae on your clothing if you don’t want to spend a fortune at the dry cleaners.

Are Bed Worms Harmful?

Bed worms are not harmful, but they can cause allergic reactions in some people. Not only that, but the hairs on carpet beetle larvae can get all-around your bedsheets and cause “bed bug-like reactions” for some people that are allergic to the pests.

It’s important to frequently vacuum around your mattress and bed frame so you remove the dead skin cells that some bed worms might want to feed on. Vacuuming is pretty easy to do, and it will also help remove any bed bug eggs around your bed.

Washing your bedding in hot water will also help get rid of bed worms. If you have a severe infestation, you may need to call a professional pest control company to help get rid of the mattress worms. Please get in touch with us if you are in the New York area and think you have an issue with mattress worms. We can help you figure out what to do.

Final Thoughts for Mattress Worms: Explained

If you’ve ever had an issue with mattress worms, you know how frustrating and gross they can be. These creatures are actually the larvae of several different insects, including carpet beetles and fleas. They love to infest mattresses, bedding, carpets, and other textiles where they can feast on human skin cells, crumbs, or fabrics.

These bed worms can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions in some people. The good news is that getting rid of mattress worms is relatively easy if you know what to do. Follow our tips above, and you’ll be on your way to a life with fewer mattress worms.