While it may be easy to forget given the recent wet weather, spring actually arrived a number of weeks ago, and with it, so did the start of the woodworm season. Typically running from April until September, the woodworm season comes with a warning to property owners to look out for the wood-boring pest, as their larvae eat all forms of wood, from floorboards and oak beams, to furniture and windowsills.
Over the coming months we’ll take a closer look at “woodworm”, exploring the four main species of woodboring beetles found in the UK as well as their life cycle’s, how to spot them, treatment and prevention of damage to properties. We’ll start with the most common, the Common furniture beetle.
Common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum)
Responsible for about 80% of all “woodworm” damage to property in the UK, the Common furniture beetle’s larvae are the worst offenders.
The adult beetle is chocolate-brown coloured, and is able to fly. It produces flight holes approximately two millimetres in diameter as the adult emerges from the infected wood. One beetle can lay between 20 and 60 eggs in small groups, and the life cycle of the larvae averages three years, but can reach up to five.
Attacking the sapwood in particular of soft and hard woods, the Common furniture beetle is named because it is often mistakenly brought into homes via infested furniture, such as sideboards or wardrobes, where they often lay their eggs on the plywood linings. However – they can invade more than just furniture, damaging decorative woodwork, smaller items such as musical instruments, while also threatening the structural integrity of buildings by attacking wooden flooring, joinery and structural timbers.
This means it’s important to understand the life cycle of the beetle, so that you can spot the signs of an infestation.
The life cycle
It is important to note that almost all of the damage caused by this pest actually occurs during the larval stage, when they are known as ‘woodworm’ and before they have developed into adult beetles – essentially, when they are still in their worm-like stage. Its life cycle is outlined below:
1. The first stage sees a beetle lay its eggs on rough sawn timber, in cracks or along a join in planed timber, where the roughness protects them from surface predators.
2. After about five weeks, the eggs begin to hatch and the newborn larvae burrow downwards into the timber – this is the ‘woodworm’ stage of an infestation, and is where the main damage is done.
3. Stage three sees the woodworm life cycle almost at an end, as larvae pupate and transform into adult beetles just below the surface of the timber.
4. Finally, the adult beetle will eat its way through the last thin veneer of timber to create exit holes that can be seen on the surface of the timber – a telltale sign of woodworm activity to watch out for and known as flight holes. From here, the beetles will begin to seek a mate to begin the process all over again.
What to look for?
It’s in stage four of the life cycle that you could notice a problem with “woodworm” in your property. Exit holes are quite visible being between 1mm and 2mm in diameter, while you could also notice bore-dust, also known as frass, found near the holes. Frass is the droppings that woodworm larvae produce as they burrow and chew their way through wooden structures. If you see any ‘exit holes’ in your wooden items or timbers then be sure to check frequently for evidence of frass, because this is a key sign that the infestation site is currently live.
You may also notice the presence of dead adult Common furniture beetles and this can be evidence of beetles mating and an active infestation. If you notice Common furniture beetles (dead or alive) where there weren’t any before, then it is worth seeking professional advice. They are attracted to light and will often be found on window sills.
If you suspect you have “woodworm” in your property, or have found beetles emerging from timber in your home, then we suggest you should take a look at our woodworm treatment pages to discover how our woodworm experts can help you.
We’ll be back next month with more information on the Deathwatch Beetle and top tips for how you can spot “woodworm” – stay tuned!