Woodworm beetle

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What is woodworm?

Woodworm is the common term for the larvae of various wood boring beetles. These beetles can affect your property by laying their eggs on structural timbers and subsequently infesting the timber with larvae.

A woodworm infestation is when larvae feed off the cellulose in wood making it weaker and less structurally sound. Understanding how to identify the signs of an infestation will let you start the process of eradicating any woodworm infestation in your home.

Woodworm is a relatively common property problem in homes across the United Kingdom and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common woodworm beetle (Anobium punctatum) is known as the common furniture beetle.

Our expert woodworm guide will describe:

If you have spotted signs of woodworm in your property then we suggest you take a look at our woodworm treatment pages to discover how our woodworm specialists can help you. Alternatively, you can give our team a call today to organise a visit from one of our surveyors or book a survey online using the button below.

What does a woodworm look like?

Despite the name, woodworm are not actually worms at all, rather it is the generic term for the larvae of certain species of wood boring beetle. They are often small, wriggly and white, similar to maggots.

Woodworm larvae can range in size depending on the species of beetle the larvae comes from but are usually only a few millimetres long and therefore barely visible to the eye. Woodworm have cylindrical or curved “C-shaped” segmented bodies with a hard outer shell and small but strong jaws for chewing through wood fibres

However, despite their distinct appearance, it is very rare that you will ever see woodworm larvae, as they tend to stay burrowed in timber until they emerge as a fully grown beetle.

Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to identify woodworm that do not involve spotting these tiny hidden larvae. From identifying the mess they leave behind to their appearance as fully grown beetles, spotting the signs of woodworm will be the first step required eradicating the problem.

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Signs of woodworm

When trying to understand if there is a woodworm infestation in your home there are a number of signs you can look out for. The images and descriptions below describe the key signs of the most common woodworm infestation (Common Furniture Beetle) and will help you understand if you have an active infestation or not. You can find more about other species of woodworm further down the page.

If you find woodworm in your property you should get a professional woodworm specialist to evaluate the scale of the problem and create a woodworm treatment plan.

woodworm flight holes, or exit holes in wood.

Sign 1 - Small round exit holes

Tiny holes, between one and three millimetre diameter, in the timber are perhaps the most obvious sign that you have a woodworm problem. These flight holes are created when the woodworm larvae pupate and hatch into adult beetles, boring their way to the surface of the timber to mate with other adult beetles and reproduce. Starting the whole woodworm life cycle all over again. However it is worth noting that holes in wood are not always woodworm or a sign of an active infestation.

Frass, or bore dust at the site of a woodworm exit hole

Sign 2 - Frass (bore dust)

Frass is the term given to the small, fine and powdery dust that is often found near woodworm flight holes. This is actually the droppings that the larvae produce as they burrow and chew their way through your timber. If you see any emergence holes in your floorboards or other structural timber then be sure to look for evidence of larvae frass, because frass is a key sign that will let you know if the woodworm infestation is currently active.

Woodworm boring tunnels in timber

Sign 3 - Tunnels in the wood

Tunnels left by woodworm beetles as they make their way through your timber are a clear sign of a woodworm problem, but they are, naturally, the least visible sign of woodworm and we certainly wouldn’t recommend breaking open timber to check. However, if you do notice tunnels in exposed parts of timber, we would recommend getting a professional opinion.

timber fragile and breaking after woodworm infestation

Sign 4 - Weak or damaged wood

Damaged timber is caused by exit holes and tunnels building up to the point where timber becomes structurally unstable. It is important though not to confuse woodworm damage with damage caused by dry rot or wet rot as these require their own unique and vastly different treatments.

Types of woodworm beetle

Woodworm larvae eventually turn into fully grown wood-boring beetles and there are a few different varieties of woodworm beetle. Each beetle has a distinctive look and its own particular characteristics that influence the type of timber they will infest and their life span in the larval stages.

The most common of these is the Common Furniture Beetle which is widespread throughout the UK but there are other types of wood boring beetles that can affect the timber in your property depending on where you are in the country.

The quick guide below will describe how to identify the four main species of woodworm beetles found in the UK.

Woodworm Species: Common furniture beetle

Common Furniture Beetle

(Anobium punctatum)

The Common Furniture Beetle is the most frequently found species in the UK. It has been known to attack both softwoods and European hardwoods. The adult beetle produces flight holes approximately one to two millimetres in diameter and is chocolate brown coloured. It is able to fly. The life cycle of the beetle can range between three to five years.

Death Watch Beetle - Xestobium rufovillosum

Death Watch Beetle

(Xestobium rufovillosum)

Often found in old buildings, attacking sapwood and heartwood of partially hardwood. Dampness is essential for the attack to start and fungal decay is most likely to be occurring alongside the damp. Bigger than the Common Furniture Beetle, it produces flight holes of approximately 2-3mm in diameter and is greyish-brown in colour. Its life cycle averages 4 – 5 years but can extend to 10 years.

Hylotrupes bajulus

House Longhorn Beetle

(Hylotrupes Bajulus)

This large insect is mainly found in a 50-mile radius from Camberley (Surrey) and is sometimes known as the Camberley beetle. It attacks most softwoods but because of its size and ability to bore extensively through sapwood and into heartwood, the damage caused is rapid and severe. It is dull brown to black, has a life cycle of 5-11 years and can reach 25mm long. Flight holes are oval up to 6 - 10mm in size.


Wood Boring Weevil

(Euophryum confine)

Wood boring weevil can be found in decayed softwoods and hardwoods with damp conditions. The adult is 3-5mm long, blackish-brown and identifiable by its long ‘snout’. Flight holes are small, 1mm in diameter, and ragged. This insect is not treated with insecticide as  dealing with the fungal decay or damp problem will often solve the problem.

Woodworm beetle life cycle

The most common type of woodworm infestation (Common Furniture Beetle) will have a life cycle that can last anywhere between a two and five-years, although a woodworm infestation can spread if the life cycle is allowed to repeat through mature common furniture beetles breeding, relaying eggs and starting the whole process again. It is also worth noting that these beetles die after mating and dead beetles in your property are one of the signs of woodworm.

Woodworm go through different phases as they undergo their transformation into an adult beetle, the life cycle of woodworm is as follows:

  1. The adult beetle lays its eggs in crevices in the surface of timber.
  2. Larval grubs hatch and spend years chewing through the wood, feeding on cellulose and leaving it structurally weakened in the process.
  3. The larvae forms a pupation chamber near the surface where it will transform into a beetle.
  4. The adult beetle bores out of wood, mates and finds suitable timber to begin the process all over again.

The majority of the woodworm life cycle will go unnoticed before most homeowners see the signs of woodworm mentioned previously such as frass, exit holes or dead beetles. That said, properly understanding this process helps our expert surveyors establish the extent of the woodworm infestation in your property and recommend the best course of woodworm treatment.

The life cycle of other woodworm beetles will differ from that of the common furniture beetle, with the House Longhorn Beetle for example having a life cycle that can last up to ten years. This is one of the reasons why a professional woodworm survey can be vital in diagnosing the right treatment for the specific species of woodworm beetle.

Woodworm lifecycle

Can I live in a house with woodworm?

Woodworm are not directly dangerous to humans and most people can live safely in a house in the short term however if left untreated it can lead to significant damage to structural timbers. If you suspect you have a woodworm problem in your property then we absolutely recommend getting it professionally examined before any danger arises.

Consider the timber frames in your house such as your joists, windowsills, lintels, rafters, load-bearing beams and floorboards. These can all be severely damaged by a long-term woodworm infestation and in exceptional circumstances lead to structural failure and costly repairs or even in the worst case scenario a risk to health and safety.

If you are buying a property with a known history of woodworm infestation you should make sure you know about any woodworm treatment that has taken place, whether the treatment was done by an accredited professional and if the woodworm treatment carried a woodworm guarantee.

Is woodworm caused by damp?

Damp problems in your property can contribute to a woodworm infestation and certain types of beetle infestation actively require damp conditions or rotten timber.

This is why woodworm infestations are often found in parts of the property that are susceptible to high humidity and damp problems such as attics and lofts, under floorboards, basements and crawl spaces. The types of ventilation problems that can lead to condensation and dry rot can also make a great breeding ground for these wood-boring pests.

That said, humidity and poor ventilation is not the only cause of woodworm and other factors such as introducing woodworm to your property in reclaimed timber or vintage/upcycled furniture can also lead to an active infestation.


What time of year does woodworm spread?

Warmer weather usually heightens the activity of certain types of woodworm and "woodworm/flight season" is generally considered to be between April and October. It is worth noting however that the key factor to woodworm activity is climate and not specific dates. So, while woodworm season can begin in spring, the woodworm life cycle will begin whenever the conditions are right.

It is during this period that certain wood boring beetles are most likely seek out suitable timber to lay their eggs. This means woodworm infestations have the potential to spread quickly and easily to other areas of your property at this time. What can begin as a small infestation in some furniture can spread to structural timbers when the conditions are right; and this has the potential to cause bigger problems for your property further along the woodworm life cycle.

How do you get rid of woodworm?

If your woodworm problem is limited to common furniture beetles in a small area such as a piece of furniture, you can treat it effectively yourself using over-the-counter woodworm killer available in most DIY stores. However, in the case of large scale infestation in structural timbers or where other species of woodworm beetle are involved, experienced and accredited contractors should carry out any woodworm treatment. Professional treatment ensures the infestation is properly dealt with and the work is guaranteed.

Our treatment process to effectively eliminate woodworm in roofs, floors and staircases has been ratified by industry trade bodies. We are also Constructionline  accredited, Which? Trusted Trader approved, and rated ‘Excellent on Trustpilot with over 2,000 independent reviews. Peter Cox also has decades of experience solving wood boring beetle problems in properties across the UK.

Our full and comprehensive woodworm treatment service includes:

  • A survey by a local, industry accredited, surveyor to locate the infestation, determine whether it is active or not and identify accurately the species involved.
  • Once an active woodworm infestation has been positively identified we offer treatment solutions that can be used on bare wood.
  • Painted or varnished timber will need to be sanded down to bare wood for any treatment.
  • If structurally necessary, infested timbers will be cut away and replaced, or economically repaired by skilled joiners using resin repair techniques.
  • The majority of our treatments are backed by real and meaningful 20 year guarantees.

You can find out more about the benefits of our professional woodworm treatment and treatment options for different species of woodworm on our woodworm treatment page. You can also learn more about the woodworm survey process and the peace of mind provided by our long-term woodworm guarantee by clicking the links below.

Our woodworm customer reviews

Peter Cox are one of the best reviewed  property preservation firms on Trustpilot - one of the most respected review platforms in the UK! With more than 2000 reviews on the platform and a Trustpilot rating of "Excellent" you can see why our customers trust us to deal with their woodworm problems.

Your local woodworm specialists

If you suspect that you may have a woodworm issue, then we are here to help. Our fully qualified specialist surveyors will be able to determine the cause of the problem and recommend the most appropriate course of action. If necessary we have a team of experienced technicians ready to get started resolving the issue for you.

Get in touch with your local Peter Cox branch by giving us a call for some help and advice. Alternatively, click the button below to book a survey.

Next Steps

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