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It’s no secret that Australia is teeming with pests whose sole purpose seems to be making our lives more difficult. And wood-eating insects are among the pesky ones that can ruin your beloved furniture, or worse – cause severe structural damage to your home.

Knowing how to identify a wood borer infestation is not something to be taken lightly. After all, you wouldn’t want to lose your antique dresser or have your floor cave in, right?

Well, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll go over what this pest is, how to identify the different kinds of wood borers and the damage they cause, and what you can do to deal with an infestation.

So, if you:

  • Live in the coastal regions of Australia and often deal with insects;
  • Are partial to antique or other old wooden furniture;
  • Have noticed tiny holes appearing on your wooden furniture or structures,

Then read on – this post can save you a world of trouble!

Table of Contents:

What is a wood borer?

Before we get to the actual identification, let’s talk about what these little critters are.

A wood borer is a type of beetle that spends most of its lifespan burrowing through and eating wood. There are quite a few different kinds of wood-boring beetles in Australia, with some being more of a nuisance and others posing some serious risks.

A wood borer starts its life when a female beetle lays eggs, often within the wood itself – in cracks or old borer tunnels, for example – or on the surface.

Once the larvae hatch, they quickly dig their way into the timber. There, they spend their time digging tunnels and chomping down on the wood. This part of a wood borer’s life can last for years and is, unfortunately, the most destructive.

When the larvae turn into beetles and are ready to leave the timber, they dig a path out and fly off, leaving exit holes on the surface. In most cases, this will be the first time you become aware of their presence at all. Unfortunately, it’s often too late at this point, and the wood is ruined.

While antique furniture and wooden structures in older houses are the usual victims, each wood-boring beetle species is relatively unique and has different dietary preferences. This means you’ll often find a certain type of wood borer attacking only specific types of wood. Which leads us to our next point.

Check also: How to Treat a Woodworm Infestation

What’s the difference between termites and borers?

If you just see a piece of wood riddled with holes and you don’t know the difference between termites and wood borers, it’s pretty easy to confuse the two. Both wood-boring beetles and termites love snacking on the wooden structures and furniture in our homes. But they have nothing in common (apart from their choice of food, of course).

As we explained above, wood borers are beetles, and their larval stage is when they do all the damage.

Termites, on the other hand, are small, ant-like insects. They’re very pale, almost white, and have soft bodies. While they’re often called “white ants” due to their appearance, they’re actually a closer relative to the cockroach.

Unlike wood-boring beetles, termites usually build their nests outside of people’s homes. And, to attack a house, they need suitable soil conditions and an easy access point.

How do you identify wood borers?

As we mentioned above, you probably won’t notice a woodworm infestation until they’ve grown into beetles and left the timber. Still, if you happen to see a beetle or two in your home (especially if you’ve been finding holes in your furniture), knowing a thing or two about wood borer identification can help you find the infested item. And if you manage to locate the source of the infestation early on, then that’s even better – you might be able to save the timber!

So, without further ado, here’s how to identify wood borers in the house.

Common furniture beetle

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The common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) is one of the worst offenders in Australia. Unfortunately, it’s also the most common type of wood borer you can find.

These wood-boring beetles have oval bodies and are brown in colour. An adult common furniture beetle is around 2.7-4.5 mm long and is easily recognised by its prothorax (the foremost segment of its body), which looks like a little hood.

As with all others, the female common furniture beetle lays her eggs in the wood. They will hatch after about 3 weeks and spend the next 3-4 years of their life as larvae, feeding on the timber. When they’re ready to pupate and start the next (very short) chapter of their life, they’ll make their way closer to the surface and remain there for up to 8 weeks.

Once they’ve “flourished” into a grown beetle, they will break out of the wood, leaving behind exit holes about 1-2 mm wide. During their escape, the beetles will drag a powdery substance (frass) out with them, which is how most of us notice the infestation in the first place.

Since common furniture beetles spend their adult life reproducing and don’t eat, they only last a few days outside the timber.

These wood-boring beetles usually attack softwood – pine, for example. However, hardwood isn’t safe, either, as they’re not extremely picky eaters like most of the other borers on our list. This means that you can find them in pretty much any piece of wood in your home. Damp areas are especially susceptible to furniture beetle damage, so cellars and wood floors often suffer.

Powderpost beetle

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Powderpost beetles, also known as Lyctus borers, are somewhat similar to the common furniture beetle. They’re a part of the Lyctinae subfamily, which consists of around 70 species.

The adult powderpost beetle can usually range from 3 to 19 mm, depending on the specific type. Unlike most other wood-boring beetles, this kind doesn’t have a large prothorax, so its head is more visible. Its most notable characteristic is that, over time, it can turn the infested wood into a fine powder, which is how it gets its name.

Lyctus borers also spend quite a lot of their life as larvae inside the wood, from a few months up to several years. Once they leave, they leave exit holes ranging from 0.8 to 3.2 mm in size, and a good amount of frass.

Powderpost beetles feed mainly on the starch content of deciduous trees, both hardwood and softwood, depending on the species. If the hardwood is low in starch, though, or if the pores are too small for the female to lay eggs in, it’s considered safe from attacks.

Some items these wood-boring beetles often like to attack are:

  • Furniture;
  • Wooden tools;
  • Flooring;
  • Skirting boards;
  • Other decorative wood.

The good news is that Lyctus borers don’t cause too much structural damage, and you can simply replace the infested wood.

Queensland pine beetle

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This type of wood-boring beetle (Calymmaderus incisus) is, unsurprisingly, native to and primarily found in south-eastern Queensland. Along with the pine bark anobiid (Ernobius mollis) and a few other species, they form the anobiid beetles family.

The adult Queensland pine beetle is around 3 mm long and 1.5 mm wide, it also has an oval-shaped body, entirely covered in tiny hairs, similar to the pine bark anobiid species (shown on the photo on the left). Its colour is a warm, reddish-brown, and it has a shiny exterior and antennae with a 3-segment club. Its legs are usually tightly folded next to its body.

When leaving the timber, the Queensland pine beetle leaves behind 2 mm wide holes. As with most kinds of wood borers, this species hatches in a few weeks, lives a 3-year-long larval life, and lasts up to 4 weeks as an adult beetle. You’ll only find adults around from October to February.

This wood-boring beetle, once again unsurprisingly, infests hoop pine sapwood almost exclusively. It attacks mostly wooden housing structures, such as floorboards and walls, and can sometimes be found in furniture. Older homes are more susceptible to attacks, and the damages are usually heavier.

The damage caused by Queensland pine beetles is easily recognised by its honeycomb appearance. Once a piece of wood is infested, this wood borer will keep reinfesting it until it loses its strength entirely, and there’s not enough for the grub to feast on.

Lesser auger beetle

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This pesky wood borer (Heterobostrychus aequalis) is known to be a nuisance pretty much anywhere except Western Australia and is pretty hard to detect.

The adult auger beetle has a long, cylindrical body that reaches 6-13 mm in length and 2-3.5 mm in width.

As with other wood-boring beetles, their head is barely visible, as it’s mostly hidden beneath the prothorax.

Their colour is often a glossy reddish-brown or brown-black.

For the lesser auger beetle, any seasoned hardwood item is fair game. It mostly wreaks havoc on timber with a high sapwood and starch content, be it furniture or a housing structure.

European house borer

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This type of wood-boring beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus) is known around Australia as a European house borer. However, you can see it referred to as a longhorn beetle or an old house borer, too.

This beetle usually grows up to 8-20 mm. It’s either brown or black in colour but looks greyish due to the fine “fur” that covers most of its body. In some cases, the antennae and legs can have a reddish hue.

The complete lifespan of the European house borer can range from 2 years to an entire decade! The type of wood, the amount of moisture, the temperature, etc., can all affect how long this species lives.

When exiting the timber, the adult beetle leaves exit holes around 6-10 mm in size. You’ll usually see adults around in the summer.

European house borers like to munch on the sapwood of softwood, pine, fir, and spruce. They’re mostly found in newer houses, as they fancy the high resin content of fairly fresh wood. Still, they can attack older wood, too, and the damage is usually more severe.

This wood borer is somewhat similar to the jewel beetle (Buprestidae), commonly known as a metallic wood-boring beetle due to its highly shiny body and iridescent colours. However, jewel beetles prefer to feed on various plants out in nature, mostly dying tree branches.

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What does borer damage look like?

Now, let’s talk about what you need to look for to identify wood borer damage. Some of these are easier to spot than others, but the bad news is that you can often see them only after the larvae have eaten through the wood.

The most common signs of borer damage are:

  • Exit holes – If the infestation was recent or is still ongoing, you’ll see fresh round or oval holes on the wood’s surface.
  • Frass – This bore dust is the result of the larvae feeding on the timber. You’ll be able to see it once the adult beetles leave the wood and drag the powdery substance out with them.
  • Damaged floorboards – If the wood borers have infested your wooden floors, the floorboards will either have visible damage or feel weak and spongy.
  • Damaged and crumbling wood – For furniture or housing structures, you might notice the wood crumbling around the edges and corners.

There are other signs that can let you know an infestation has taken place, though they’re less common or more difficult to spot. These are:

  • Tunnels – The tunnels dug by the borers are also called galleries. They’re difficult to spot, though, and you’ll likely only notice them if you saw the item open.
  • Beetle eggs – Most of the time, the eggs are very hard to see with the naked eye. If you suspect an infestation, you might want to take a closer look at the wood in question with a magnifying glass.
  • Adult beetles – This is relatively rare, but you might spot a live adult beetle or two puttering about your home, or dead ones around the infested wood, doors, or windows.
  • Larva – Since they spend their whole larval stage inside the wood, it’s very unlikely that you’ll spot wood borer larvae in your home. But if you want to keep an eye out on the off chance that one escapes, most of them are white or cream-coloured, round, and curved.

How to treat a wood borer infestation

Now that you’ve learned about the different types of wood-boring beetles and the damage they cause, you probably want to know more about wood borer treatment. By far the best solution is to turn to a professional pest control company. Still, sometimes you can handle it yourself.

A wood borer infestation that’s allowed to continue can lead to some severe structural damage. You’ll want to take care of it as soon as possible, so here’s how to get rid of borers.

Determine the type of infestation

The first thing on your to-do list should be finding out if the infestation is still active.

  • Seeing wood powder around the item in question means you’re dealing with wood borers.
  • If you find a white, powdery substance that doesn’t clump together around a wooden item, there might still be woodworms burrowing inside.
  • If the powder is yellow and clumpy, however, there’s a good chance that the larvae have grown into beetles and left their childhood home many moons ago.

Choose the right kind of treatment

For ongoing infestations, treating the wood is the way to go, as you need to kill the larvae inside. If you’re handling unfinished wood, you can just apply the treatment directly. Painted or sealed wood, though, will need to be stripped before you can treat it. And if you’re dealing with adult beetles, you might want to use an insecticide.

If you’ve determined that the infestation is no longer active and there are no eggs to be found, you have two options – either seal the wood or replace it. If it’s furniture, it depends on the item and if you’re willing to get rid of it. However, housing structures need to be inspected for heavy damages and, if possible, replaced for your own safety.

  • Using a borate-based product to treat borers in furniture is a good way to “purge” the timber and prevent pests from attacking it in the future. Read the instructions on the label carefully, mix the product with the stated amount of water, and apply it to the unsealed wood, coating it well.
  • Insecticides can help rid your home of adult beetles before they get the chance to lay their eggs. Choose a product labelled for pests that infest wood (or wood-boring beetles specifically). Prepare the solution as per the instructions. Then, spray the insecticide in any cracks and crevices, around door and window frames, around baseboards and corners, pretty much anywhere a pest can hide. You may need to reapply the product as needed.

How a borer pest control specialist can help

If you don’t want to handle wood borer pest control yourself, or you’re not sure what you’re dealing with exactly, it’s best to get professional help.

The pest control specialists we work with have years of experience in the field and know what the best course of action will be. They can treat your home for various insects, including wood-boring beetles, using the most effective methods based on what pest is troubling you.

Plus, if you turn to the experts, you can rest easy, knowing that the health of your family or pets will not be endangered in any way.

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Takeaways

  • Wood borers are beetles whose larvae burrow inside and weed on timber.
  • There are various types of wood-boring beetles that infest different kinds of wood.
  • The most common wood borer species in Australia are the common furniture beetle, the powderpost beetle, the Queensland pine beetle, the lesser auger beetle, and the European house borer.
  • The difference between wood borers and termites is that the former are beetles, while the latter are different kinds of insects, related to cockroaches. They differ in both appearance and behaviour.
  • The more common signs of a wood borer infestation are exit holes in the timber, powdery frass, and weak and damaged wooden furniture and structures.
  • To stop an active infestation, you need to treat or replace the wood. To deal with adult beetles, you can apply a specialised insecticide.
  • The best course of action if you suspect a wood borer infestation is to call a professional.

We hope you found our post helpful. If you have any other questions about wood borers or your own tips on dealing with them, let us know in the comments!

    Posted in All Articles, Pest Issues