Wood treatment for wood boring beetles & larvae

Updated November 21, 2016

The type of treatment you use on the wood that is infected in your home depends primarily on the type of wood boring beetles and larvae present. Wood boring beetles attack not only decorative or wood furniture, but also wood that is used for the housing structure itself. The most common pests are known as powderpost, deathwatch and false powderpost.


Adult wood boring beetles measure approximately 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch long. They are slim and generally range from reddish brown to black in colour. There are three classifications of wood boring beetles: the powderpost, the deathwatch and the false powderpost beetle. Powderpost beetles leave a powdery residue, known as frass, in their wake. This powdery substance looks much like fine sawdust or baby powder and is a combination of faeces mixed with processed wood matter. The deathwatch beetle leaves frass that is grittier in texture compared to powderpost beetles, and the false powderpost beetle leaves frass that feels like powdered soap and is the coarsest of the three. Feeling the frass helps you determine which type of beetle you have in your home and will determine how to treat your infected wood.


Female adult wood boring beetles lay their eggs on the surface of unfinished wood or wood that is unprotected, such as under splinters or in cracks of the wood surface. False powderpost beetles actually bore through the wood to create a tunnel in which to deposit its eggs. The larvae of all three types of beetle emerge the same. They will hatch inside the area of unprotected wood and feed and grow off it. When they reach adulthood they exit from the wood and immediately mate and start the process over again. The larvae are the only stage that feeds off the wood.


According to ACES Publications, there are more than 30 kinds of lyctid beetles and more than 200 kinds of deathwatch beetle. Lyctid beetles are known to mainly infest hardwoods, but have also been found in soft woods and can reside in different moisture conditions. Out of the 200 types of deathwatch beetles, very few of them infest wood. They are the most common beetle to infest crawl spaces.


Prevention is the best way to avoid wood beetle infestations in your furniture or house. To prevent infestation, you can seal and protect all of your wood furnishings that are not already protected. Wood borers will not attack treated wood. Always inspect any lumber that you are purchasing for any type of construction at your home. Look for signs of wood beetles such as exit holes that measure from 1/16 inch to 3/4 inch wide in the suspect wood. Determine if the infestation is old or new by putting 6 inches of masking tape across the remaining area and wait six weeks to see if new holes emerge through the masking tape.


Moisture control is key to managing a wood beetle infestation, as high moisture speeds up the development of the larvae. One inexpensive method of wood beetle extermination is to wrap the infected item in plastic and then freeze it for a week. Wood beetles cannot withstand frozen environments. Insecticides are available to purchase in department or hardware stores but may not be as effective as those applied by a certified professional, which contain sodium borate. The other wood treatment option for wood beetles is fumigation, which can prove very costly and inconvenient, as you have to leave your home during fumigation.

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