Finding woodworm infestation in your property can lead to slight panic. However, if you know what to look for you can minimise damage and also prepare for future woodworm attacks.
There are plenty of different types of woodworm species, the most common being the Common Furniture Beetle. These beetles thrive in humid conditions and feed off moist wood. Common Furniture Beetles can attack building timber as well as furniture, and their preferred choice of food is the sapwood of softwood and hardwood, plywood and wattling. The adult females lay eggs in cracks, crevices or previous woodworm holes (anywhere protected), and when these hatch the larvae is ready to grow.
When the larvae hatch they immediately start to bore their way through the wood. They continue to feed for approximately 3 years before they turn into adults, and are ready to mate. Between May and September is when the larvae (through a pupal stage) eat their way through the wood surface, and the characteristic woodworm holes start to appear. The holes are around 1.5-2mm in diameter.
Of course, if the holes have already appeared the woodworms have been well under way for a few years, and your property is already infested. There are however, signs to look out for before the woodworms reach the final stage of their lives.
What to look out for:
The woodworm adults only live for a few weeks, so if you spot dead woodworms around your house it’s a fairly good indicator that your house has got pests (although woodworms can also fly in from windows). It’s best to call in an expert as there are different treatments for different species.
Piles of bore dust (frass) or tiny holes surrounded by a sawdust-like material, hint that a larvae is eating its way through the wood. If magnified, the bore dust looks like lemon shaped pellets. This means that the larvae has not yet reached the pupal stage and isn’t ready to mate. Get in there quickly! With a boroscope, experts can check the internal parts of timber and judge whether the wood is attacked or not.
Woodworm treatment and prevention:
Woodworms can’t penetrate painted or varnished wood, so if you’re sure that your timber is unaffected, you can use these methods.
Since woodworms like humid conditions, it’s very important to keep your house at a low humidity level, which keeps the wood dry.
To prevent adult woodworms mating and laying eggs, invest in insect traps.
If small furniture has been hit, you might get away with freezing. Other measures (depending on the specie and affected area) can be insecticides or fogging (this is particularly the case with the Deathwatch beetle, who’s fond of old wood such as oak).
In worst cases, woodworm treatment may involve removing the affected parts and replacing with pre-treated timber. An expert will tell you what solution is best for your house.