Pest IssuesHow to Treat a Woodworm Infestation
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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:
Then read on – this post can save you a world of trouble!
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
The good news is that Lyctus borers don’t cause too much structural damage, and you can simply replace the infested wood.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
The first thing on your to-do list should be finding out if the infestation is still active.
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.
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.
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!