Identification of Species

Wood boring insects can vary in size and shape as well as habitat, various types of wood within different locations of England. Luckly in Sussex we are faced with only two main beetles that can cause problems in timber, these being the Common Furniture Beetle (CFB) and Death watch Beetle (DW) and we have listed this imformation below. We do occasionnally suffer from the other styles of boring beetles in this region like Powder post beetle however these are generally rarer and often found with imported furniture or wood sources from other locations in the UK.

The main problems encountered when treating woodworm are identifying the species involved, deciding whether the infestation is still active, and deciding which timbers have been structurally weakened and need replacing. All of these factors will influence the type of treatment carried out (if any). For this reason, we would recommend that a survey is carried out by an experienced timber treatment company whenever an active woodworm infestation is suspected. For details of such companies in your area, contact our technical department.

Common Furniture Beetle

The common furniture beetle or common house borer (Anobium punctatum) is a woodboring beetle. In the larval stage it bores in wood and feeds upon it. Adult Anobium punctatum measure 2.7–4.5 mm in length. They have brown ellipsodial bodies with a pronotum resembling a monk's cowl

Like many of the pests that cause problems with timber, the adult does not feed. They are merely there to reproduce and take their place in the food chain. It is the larvae that do all the damage. The female lays her eggs into cracks in wood or inside old exit holes, if available. The eggs hatch after some three weeks, each producing a 1 mm long, creamy white, C-shaped larva. For three to four years the larvae bore semi-randomly through timber, following and eating the starchy part of the wood grain, and grow up to 7 mm. They come nearer to the wood surface when ready to pupate. They excavate small spaces just under the wood surface and take up to eight weeks to pupate. The adults then break through to the surface as adults, making a 1mm to 1.5 mm exit hole and spilling dust, the first visible signs of an infestation.

Recognsing and dealing with common furniture beetle infestation.

Active infections feature the appearance of new exit holes and fine wood dust around the holes.

Because of the 3–4 year life cycle of Anobium punctatum, timber or timber products bought containing an A. punctatum infection may not manifest holes until years after the timber has been acquired. Infestation can be controlled by application of a residual insecticide to infected areas, by professional fumigation, or by replacing infected timber. Simple aerosol insecticide sprays will only kill the adult borer on the wing but not the burrowing larvae, which remain relatively protected inside infected timbers.

In most cases treatment of Common Furniture Beetle is fairly straightforward. Any structurally-weakened timber should be removed and replaced with pre-treated timber. All surfaces of the affected timber should then be treated withSoluguard Woodworm Treatment applied by brush or spray.

common furniture beetle


Death watch Beetle

The death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) is a woodboring beetle, namely a beetle whose larvae are xylophagous - they hatch and eat wood, having symbiotic protozoa and bacteria in their digestive system that help them break down and digest cellulose. The adult is approximately 7 mm long. The larva can be up to 11 mm long. For the larvae to flourish it is usually necessary for the heartwood to have been attacked by some fungal decay, which makes it more palatable for them.

To attract mates, these woodborers create a tapping or ticking sound that can be heard in old building rafters during quiet summer nights. They are therefore associated with quiet, sleepless nights and are named for the vigil (watch) kept beside the dying or dead, and by extension the superstitious have seen the death watch as an omen of impending death.

The term death watch' has been applied to a variety of other ticking insects including Anobium striatum, some of the so-called booklice of the family Psocidae, and the appropriately named Atropos divinatoria and Clothilla pulsatoria, however, it is the xestobium rufovillosum that is the cause of timber damage in our buildings.

In many historic British buildings the oak beams were converted and assembled while green. This led to high moisture retention making an ideal environment for fungal and death watch beetle infestation. In many of the larger timbers, this moisture content will have remained high enough to sustain fungal growth for many years. With subsequent water ingress and possibly a lack of maintenance, the situation can worsen. Condensation and poor ventilation can also heighten the chances of infestation by raising the moisture level above the 14% which is reckoned by a number of authorities to be the threshold level at which a colony becomes sustainable.


Identification and treatment

Like so many pests, death watch beetles are experts at survival, and the life cycle can vary between a year and up to twelve years depending on the circumstances. This means that a treatment needs to offer long term protection and penetrate deep into your timbers as that is where the larvae live, and it is the larvae rather than the adults that do the damage by eating your building.

The identification of the beetle itself is quite easy. The adults are 6-9mm long, dark brown with patches of yellow hair: the larva are up to 9mm long, cream and slightly curved, covered in fine yellow hairs. The flight holes and tunnels are circular and 3mm in diameter. The bore dust is cream coloured with bun-shaped pellets.

It is important to confirm whether a beetle attack is active or dead. It should always be borne in mind that the great majority of Death Watch Beetle attacks found in historic buildings died out many years - even centuries - ago. However, this has not stopped the unscrupulous from treating the attack by one system or another, and hailing the subsequent status quo as a success.

The extent of the attack within the timber is not always proportional to the number of flight holes visible, and the structural integrity of the timber should always be checked. Many visible attacks affect only the sapwood areas left on the outside of the timber after conversion, which has no structural significance: surface treatment will normally deal with this, but the attack has usually died out years ago.

The presence of fresh, brightly coloured bore dust and clean dust-free flight holes certainly indicates that the attack is active, but their absence may not necessarily mean that the attack is dead.

Death watch beetle


Some of the other beetles that we face in the Sussex & Kent region are as mentioned above less common. We have provided a list as shown below of the main beetles that you can possibly find.

Ambrosia Beetle

Ambrosia beetles are beetles of the weevil subfamilies Scolytinae and Platypodinae (Coleoptera, Curculionidae), which live in nutritional symbiosis with ambrosia fungi and probably with bacteria. The beetles excavate tunnels in dead trees in which they cultivate fungal gardens, their sole source of nutrition. After landing on a suitable tree, an ambrosia beetle excavates a tunnel in which it releases spores of its fungal symbiont. The fungus penetrates the plant's xylem tissue, digests it, and concentrates the nutrients on and near the surface of the beetle gallery. The majority of ambrosia beetles colonize xylem (sapwood and/or heartwood) of dying or recently dead trees. Species differ in their preference for different parts of trees, different stages of deterioration, in the shape of their tunnels (“galleries”). However, majority of ambrosia beetles are not specialized to any taxonomic group of hosts, unlike most of phytophagous organisms including the closely related bark beetles.

ambrosia beetle

Long-Horn Beetle

The old-house borer (Hylotrupes bajulus) is a species of wood-boring beetle in the family Cerambycidae (longhorn beetles). Contrary to its name, it is more often found in new houses; this is in part because new home construction may use wood infected with the beetle's eggs. Originating in Europe, the old-house borer now has a worldwide distribution, including the Mediterranean, South Africa, Asia, USA and Canada. Recently it has been found in Perth, Australia. In Australia, it is known as the European House Borer. [1]

Old-house borers prefer seasoned softwoods, and particularly pine. Only the larvae feed on the wood. Larvae take two or three or more years to mature, depending on the moisture content of the wood. Larvae usually mature in the spring, and the mature adults then cut holes 6–10 mm (¼ to 3/8 in) in diameter to exit the wood. Adults are most active in the summer. They are black or brown with grayish "hair" on their upper bodies and wing cases. They have shiny spots that resemble eyes.




Powderpost Beetle

Powderpost beetles are a group of seventy species of woodboring beetles classified in the insect subfamily Lyctinae.[1] These beetles, along with spider beetles, death watch beetles, common furniture beetles, skin beetles, and others, make up the superfamily Bostrichoidea. While most woodborers have a large prothorax, powderpost beetles do not, making their heads more visible. In addition to this, their antennae have two-jointed clubs. They are considered pests and attack deciduous trees, over time reducing the wood to a powdery dust. The damage caused by longhorn beetles (family Cerambycidae) is often confused with that of powderpost beetles, but the two groups are unrelated. Their larvae are white and C-shaped.

Powderpost Beetle


Please use the below identification chart to correctly confirm the infestation.

Woodworm ID Chart


For a survey within Sussex please contact us via the contacts page or on the below telephone numbers.

01273 514802    -    01903 550024    -    01444 420005

Our office is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.


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