Woodboring Beetles

(Commonly referred to as woodworm)

Woodworm is a generic term that is commonly used in reference to a number of beetles, the larvae of which are able to use wood as a source of food. These beetles lay their eggs on or in timber components within buildings, their resulting larvae feeding upon the wood whilst boring tunnels within it. The life cycle of these beetles is broadly similar but there are variations in the duration of each stage in the life cycle. The extent of attack and resulting damage will depend upon factors relating to the species of beetles, the type of timber, moisture content and length of infestation.​

Expert Treatment

In many instances it is possible to eradicate the infestation using specified insecticidal treatments. There are occasions, where the attack is particularly long-standing and severe, which may necessitate reinforcing or replacing any timbers that may have been structurally weakened. This is also likely to occur where the infestation is found in conjunction with fungal decay to the timber components. It is essential that a qualified remedial treatment surveyor carry out a thorough survey of an affected building. Only when the species of wood-boring beetles and extent of attack have been accurately determined, can a reliable recommendation be made as to the need for chemical treatment.​

Should a Rudders & Paynes surveyor recommend that chemical treatment is necessary, a specification for the correct and most cost effective eradication measures will be included within our survey report.​

There are a number of wood-boring beetles that are commonly misidentified by unqualified or inexperienced surveyors.

Woodboring beetle types

Common furniture beetle

Common furniture beetle
(Anobium punctatum)

The Common Furniture Beetle attacks both softwoods and European hardwoods, though predominately the sapwood of softwoods. Heartwood will usually be unaffected unless timber decay is present. The larvae of this beetle bore through the wood digesting the cellulose as they travel. Upon reaching maturity they pupate near the surface of the timber before emerging as adults.

The beetles will usually emerge between late March and early August, particularly in warm weather, leaving their characteristic circular flight holes of 1 to 2 mm in diameter. After mating, the females lay their eggs on surfaces or in crevices or old flight holes of surrounding timber. The eggs will hatch and a new generation begins a fresh life cycle.

This beetle is able to attack and infest timbers in dry, well-ventilated situations, suspended ground floors and most roofing timbers, but the severity of attack will usually be quite low. If more active infestations are present these will usually be associated with a dampness problem, including high humidity due to poor ventilation.

It is quite rare for infestation by the Common Furniture Beetle to cause structural weakening of timber. When this does occur it is usually in relatively small section timbers e.g. floorboards. It is quite common to have to replace sections due to severe tunnelling in the board edges. This beetle is found throughout Britain.

Death watch beetle

Death watch beetle
(Xestobium rufovillosum)

Death Watch Beetle primarily attacks hardwoods, mainly large section timbers of Oak and Elm. Infestations of softwood will usually only occur where the timbers are adjacent to hardwoods, e.g. softwood flooring boards over Oak joists. For severe infestation to occur dampness is essential and when in association with fungal decay will often lead to a rapid development of the infestation. Established infestations will invariably cause substantial structural weakening of timbers, often resulting in the hollowing out of large dimension timber beams. Infestations are frequently found in joist ends embedded in masonry, wall plates, sole plates; generally areas where the timber members are prone to dampness.

The life cycle of this beetle can vary enormously, from as little as around 4 years where conditions are ideal, to as long as 12 years where a slow infestation of drier timber occurs. The adult beetles, larger than Common Furniture Beetles, emerge from the timber from March to June following pupation. The emergence holes are circular of approximately 3mm diameter, the adult beetles being 6-9 mm in length. Following, mating, the female will lay up to 50 eggs on the surfaces and in crevices of surrounding timbers. The well known ‘tapping’ sound that is associated with this beetle is a mating call frequently heard during the emergence season.

Infestations of Death Watch Beetle are common throughout the United Kingdom.

Wood-boring weevil

Wood-boring weevil
(Euophryum confine and Pentarthrum huttoni)

Occasionally mis-identified as the Common Furniture Beetle, though of slimmer appearance and having a long snout. Wood-boring weevils will only attack timber that is damp and decayed; with the damage they cause being secondary to that of the fungus. There is no fixed emergence period and holes are ragged, of about 1 mm in diameter. This beetle does not require insecticidal treatment, as it will die rapidly once the affected timber has dried out. Infestation of sound, dry wood by wood-boring weevil is not possible.

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