Powder Post Beetles

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Similar to termites, severe infestations of powder post beetles can cause homeowners to spend thousands of dollars in repair costs. Unfortunately, powder post beetle infestations are not usually detected until the damage has already happened.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE POWDER POST BEETLES?

  • Homeowners are much more likely to see the damage than the actual beetles.

  • Infestations are often discovered after noticing small, round "pinholes" in the wood surface.

  • New holes from an active infestation will not have taken on the weathered appearance of the surrounding wood.

  • You may also notice powder-like sawdust called “frass” sifting from the holes.

  • Active infestations will usually have powder the color of fresh-cut wood sifting from the exit holes.

  • Careful observation may be required to distinguish whether it is new powder from an active infestation or old frass which has been dislodged by vibrations.

  • You can also confirm an active infestation by marking or sealing any existing exit holes, vacuuming up all powder, and rechecking the wood for new holes and powder at a later date.

  • You may also be able to hear the sound of feeding from an active infestation.

HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE WOOD BORING BEETLES OR CARPENTER ANTS?

  • Even if you cannot see the actual insect, you can still determine if it is a powder post beetle or a carpenter ant infestation.

  • Check the texture of the sawdust or “frass”:

  • Carpenter ants produce coarse sawdust-like material that is pushed out from the nest. The sawdust may include other debris such as dead ants, parts of insects, and other food;

  • Ture powder post beetles produce fine, powder-like sawdust. Other powder post beetles, such as death watch beetles produce fine powder that contains gritty pellets.

WHAT DO POWDER POST BEETLES LOOK LIKE?

  • The powder post beetles term usually refers to three groups of insects:

  1. Lyctid or true powder post beetles, which commonly breed in and feed on dead and dried hardwood.

  2. Anobiid powder post beetles, which are considered among the most frequently encountered powder post beetles and are sometimes called “furniture beetles” because they are commonly found infesting both hardwood and softwood furniture, such as tables, chairs, TV stands, cabinets, benches, as well as bed headboards and footboards.

  3. False powder post beetles, which infest floors, furniture, hardwood paneling, and other wood materials.

  • Depending on the species, adult powder post beetles are reddish-brown to black in color and 1/8” - 3/8” in length.

  • Larvae are 1/8” – 5/16” in length and are creamy white in color.

TO IDENTIFY A SPECIFIC WOOD BORING BEETLE CLICK HERE

ARE POWDER POST BEETLES DANGEROUS?

  • No. There is no known health threat from powder post beetles.

CAN MY HOUSE BE DAMAGED BY POWDER POST BEETLES?

  • Yes. The true powder post beetles are considered second in importance only to termites as the most wood-destroying insects.

  • Typical damage of powder post beetles can vary from unpleasant holes in a wood surface to significant destruction of the wood.

  • Although powder post beetles attack only bare wood materials, finished wood products can also be infested if the infestation occurred before the finish materials were applied, or before the wood was seasoned.

HOW DID POWDER POST BEETLES GET INTO MY HOUSE?

  • Generally, powder post beetles enter lumber while it is being stored and cured, and then later emerge from the finished product.

  • Old items of furniture and wood antiques are especially vulnerable to attack by the beetles and may be infested when purchased.

  • Wooden items stored in out buildings, such as barns and sheds, are susceptible to infestations as these buildings are often infested with wood-boring beetles.

WHAT DO POWDER POST BEETLES EAT?

  • Powder post beetle larvae eat sugar, starch, and protein found in the sapwood of hardwood.

  • Powder post beetles attack woods with high moisture. Moisture content of less than 6% is ideal for minimizing a powder post beetle infestation.

WHAT IS THE LIFECYCLE OF POWDER POST BEETLES?

  • Powder post beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, in which there are four distinct stages: adults, eggs, larvae, and pupae.

  • After mating, females lyctid and anobiid beetles locate unfinished wood materials and then lay their eggs in holes, cracks, crevices, or old adult’s exit holes. The females of false powder post beetles bore into the wood in order to lay eggs, leaving a hole larger than 1/8”.

  • Newly hatched larvae bore into and feed on the wood causing the damage.

  • As the larvae feed, they create tunnels (galleries) that become filled with powdery frass (insect debris). The shape, size and the appearance of the frass in tunnels are used to determine the pest species causing the damage.

  • Larvae development and feeding occur entirely below the wood surface, and can last three months and up to 15 years depending on a variety of factors including, but are not limited to, the insect species, temperature, and the starch, sugar, protein, and moisture contents of the infested wood.

  • When conditions are favorable, fully-grown larvae tunnel towards the wood surface to pupate.

  • Adults finally emerge in one to four weeks depending on the species.

  • Newly emerged adults chew their way out of the wood. Adult powder post beetles usually emerge in the spring.

5 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT POWDER POST BEETLES:

  • Adult powder post beetles fly and are attracted to light. They tend to gather around windows and lighted areas.

  • The actual food of the larvae of true powder post beetles is the starch present in the cells of the sapwood they infest. This explains why these beetles breed only on certain kinds of timber and then only the sapwood.

  • The deathwatch beetles (Xestobium rufovillosum) generate mating calls by striking the front of their heads on the substrate 4–11 times, at a frequency of about 11 Hz. Females responded more readily to male beetle taps containing high strike numbers.

  •  Incidentally, the tapping sound of the deathwatch beetles was once believed to be an indication that death was near, especially when people were sitting up with an ill person through a quiet night, and hence the name “deathwatch” beetles.

  • The old house borer essentially attacks new houses just four to seven years after construction. This pest is native to North Africa and is believed to have arrived in North America around 1875.