How to Control Wood Pests


Certain kinds of wood in buildings are liable to be attacked by the larvae (grubs) of wood-boring beetles. By far the most common of these is Anobium punctatum, the common furniture beetle. The larvae of this beetle are generally known as woodworm.

These insects naturally inhabit the dead branches of trees and shrubs, but they can also survive and breed in the relatively dry wood of roofs and floors. The beetles can fly for some distance and may get into a roof space from the outside. In towns, infestations most frequently come from old furniture and wickerwork stored in attics and roof spaces.

How to Control Wood Pests

At one time it was thought that timber had to be old before it could be attacked, but this is not so. Freshly felled and recently seasoned wood can also become infested, but the insects breed so slowly that it is usually many years before they cause sufficient damage to be observed.

The holes seen in infested wood are the exit holes made by beetles that have emerged after spending several years as larvae tunnelling in the depths of the wood. It need not be assumed that there is an active infestation just because you see some holes in the wood. It is quite common to find woodwork in old buildings with many holes on the surface but no active insects at all. Small piles of wood dust, called frass, on the surĀ­face of the wood are a sure indication of recent activity, and fresh, clean exit holes also indicate that live beetles have recently emerged. Old holes soon become dirty and dark.

Where to look

A bright electric torch and a large magnifying glass are useful when inspecting woodwork for signs of woodworm damage.

Although the larvae of the common furniture beetle can survive in dry, seasoned timber in the roof of a modern house, they thrive best under rather damper conditions, such as the woodwork of cellars, outhouses and barns. Decayed wood is more nutritious for them than sound wood, so they can often be found infesting wood that is already slightly softened by decay. They also find glue a useful source of protein, and the older types of plywood made with animal glue or casein are especially susceptible to attack. An infestation can often be traced to old tea chests in an attic, and plywood meter boards in cellars are also a common focus for infestation.

Some limbers, such as pine and oak, have a distinct, darker-coloured heartwood. This is practically immune from beetle attack, though they may cat away all the pale-coloured, outer sapwood. It is quite common to find old oak beams from which practically all the sapwood has been eaten but which are still strong enough to support the floors. Other woods, such as beech, have no distinct areas of heartwood and sapwood and larvae may cat right through them.

In roofs, damage will always be most severe along the sap-wood edges of rafters and joists, and in floors it will be confined to the sapwood portions of the boards and the joists.

How to Control Wood Pests  Wood Pests

The underside of a staircase is another area where infestation quite often becomes established.

Since the beetles always seek bare wood on which to lay their eggs, an infestation can never start on polished surfaces of floors or furniture, though the adult beetles may make their exit holes through such surfaces.

The life cycle of wood-boring beetles

After mating, the female beetles lay their eggs on the end grain, or in cracks, crevices and joints of certain kinds of wood. After four or five weeks the eggs hatch and the small larvae bore into the wood, tunnelling and eating their way inside it for several years, during which the internal damage may remain undetected.

When the larvae are fully grown they pupate and emerge as beetles, usually during the summer months. Most of these beetles are sluggish in cool weather but on warm sunny days they can fly quite well.

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About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.

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