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Identifying and Managing Wood Boring Beetles: A Guide to Prevention and Control

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Understanding Wood Boring Insects

‘Wood boring insect’ is a common term that covers many species of beetles that, as larvae, eat and destroy timbers. In this article we’ll cover the most common wood boring insects, how to spot them and how to prevent and control an infestation.

Definition and Types of Wood Boring Beetles

Common Furniture Beetle

The common furniture beetle (also known as the Common House Borer) is the most common species and most likely woodworm infestation you will find in UK buildings. Although known as common ‘furniture’ beetles, they can actually be found in any timber that makes up the building.

You may recognise the common furniture beetle by its dark chocolate brown ridged body, its antennae or the fact that it can fly. However, it is more likely that you won’t see them at all. So, it’s important to recognise the signs. You’ll see the tiny holes and bore dust left in damp timber by the boring beetle.

Wood Boring Weevil

Wood Boring Weevils are slightly longer that the common furniture beetle at around 3mm. They tend to be found in partially decayed hardwoods or timber already suffering from fungal decay. The way to spot the wood boring weevils is to take a look at the holes, these woodworm beetles make a more oval shaped hole than the common furniture beetle.

House Longhorn Beetle

The house longhorn beetle is most commonly found in the South East of England. Recognised by their grey-hair covered bodies, the deathwatch beetle can cause severe damage to timber within the home. Just like other wood boring insects, the house longhorn will bore into damp wood so it is important to keep a check on damp and condensation within the home.

Deathwatch Beetle

The Deathwatch Beetle (or Death Watch Beetle) is distinguishable from its counterparts as it has a more cylindrical shape. These wood destroying beetles are known as the adult beetle makes a tapping sound on the wood to attract mates. Sometimes found in rotten, fallen trees, they are most often found in older buildings and can cause severe damage to structural timbers.

Why Do Wood Boring Insects Attack Timber?

Attractants and Conditions that Favor Infestation

Wood boring insects such as the common furniture beetle attack only when dampness is affecting your property. Wood borers tend to attack sapwood, but heartwood is also susceptible to attack.

It is important to note that Death Watch Beetles can attack dry timbers where old flight holes have been dislodged.

Signs of Active Infestation

Identifying the Signs of Wood Boring Insect Infestation

Spotting signs of a wood boring insect active infestation can be a difficult task and if not spotted early, can cause significant damage. And in fact, the infestation can stay hidden for 3-5 years, depending on the beetle species.

The typical signs of a woodworm beetle infestation are flight holes in the timber, bore dust created by the beetle, and tunnels left where they have been eating through the timber.

 

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Life Cycle of Wood Boring Beetles

Understanding the Life Cycle of Wood Boring Insects

The life cycle of wood boring beetles can last anywhere between a two and five-years. The damage is caused mostly by the larvae as they burrow and feed and destroy wood on their way.

Woodworm go through four different phases as they undergo their transformation into adult beetles.

  • Egg: the eggs are laid on or within the wood.
  • Larvae: the most damaging is the larval stages, burrowing through wood and feeding as they go.
  • Pupa: the changing stage, or emergence period, occurs near the surface of the wood and takes 2-4 weeks.
  • Adult beetles emerge from the timber to mate, making bigger emergence holes.

Prevention and Control

Non-Chemical and Chemical Control Methods for Wood Boring Insects

Wood boring insects are attracted to damp and decaying wood. Dry timber is far less vulnerable to attack, so reducing the moisture content to below 15% can prevent infestation. And so, the first step to getting rid of wood boring beetles is to treat the causes of the damp problem. Ensure that your property isn’t poorly ventilated. And in periods of high humidity, ensure that you take extra precautions such as the use of a dehumidifier.

When purchasing old wooden furniture or even an older property. Ensure that you thoroughly inspect the timbers for signs of exit holes or rotten timber. Historic buildings are prone to structural damage caused by the young larvae of the wood boring beetle.

Non chemical treatment usually includes blocking the exit holes with a glue or wax. Alternatively, there are some non-chemical products on the market.

Chemical woodworm treatment can be used to target the older larvae inside the wood directly. Insecticides are sprayed onto the wood’s surface, injected or drilled through the decayed softwoods. Different types of insects can cause varying degrees of damage, so it’s always best to get in touch with a professional before you begin to treat woodworm. Sometimes, the damage can be so advanced that replacing damaged timber may be necessary.

Professional Treatment

When to Contact a Specialist for Wood Boring Insect Infestation

If you believe your property is suffering from a woodworm infestation, contact Damp Surveyors for advice or to arrange a survey.

Our surveyors are PCA registered and can confirm if there is a live infestation and identify the type of beetle that has infested the property. We can determine the best treatment moving forward and provide further information on wood boring insects.

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Sam Fitzgerald – CSRT Damp Surveyor

Author – CSRT Damp Surveyor
Sam is a highly qualified and seasoned damp surveyor with over ten years of specialised experience. With a strong academic foundation in building surveying and numerous professional certifications, Sam has established himself as an authority in the field of damp diagnosis and remediation.

At Damp Surveyors Ltd, Sam applies his extensive knowledge to help homeowners across the UK address and solve their damp issues effectively. His approach combines cutting-edge techniques with a commitment to honest, client-focused service, ensuring that every survey and recommendation is tailored to the specific needs of the property.

As a thought leader, Sam’s insights into damp prevention and treatment have been featured in industry publications, underscoring his role as a trusted expert dedicated to maintaining the integrity and comfort of your home.

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