The ‘Anobium Punctatum’ – woodworm, to you and me – is what we call in the industry a right pain in the backside. If left unchecked, infestations can lead to severe structural weakening and eventually, total collapse. But it can be treated, so if you have it in your timbers, don’t panic.
1. The Circle of Life
Whilst the woodworm commonly occurs outdoors, infesting dead tree trunks and branches etc, it can infect indoor timbers, such as structural building timbers, furniture and wooden ornaments. And that, unfortunately, is where the problem lies.
So how exactly does it get quite so bad? Soon after mating, the female beetle lays approximately 30 eggs (30 children, can you imagine!) into the cracks and crevices of the timber, and then takes off to find a new home – nice.
Within a month, the eggs hatch and the young grubs begin to burrow into the timber. Then they lay low for a little while – 2 to 4 years – slowly eating into and burrowing beneath the wood. Following the pupation process, the now-adult beetle cuts a hole in the surface of the timber and emerges, where she will then lay her eggs and the circle of life will begin again.
2. How do I know I have it?
The good news is it is quite clear to spot when you do. The beetles’ emergence holes will appear on your wood, and the dust that falls from them should also clue you in.
3. How can you help?
We will inspect your timbers, assess their condition, the type and accessibility of the little blighters attack and the risks and hazards that could arise. We will then advise on the correct form of treatment.
Initially, the timbers will need to be cleaned down to remove any excessive dust and debris. Treatments using water-based insecticides are very common, and are generally successful and cost effective. Chemicals are often applied by low pressure spraying, but some insecticides can be applied by ‘fogging’ or are even brushed on.
Furniture, ornaments and small items of timber can be treated by the use of heat, freezing or gas fumigation.
All of these methods of treatment are highly specialised, and should only be undertaken by people who are trained and competent.
4. Do I need to look out for anything else?
Unfortunately, there are some other wood destroying insects that you should be aware of.
Death Watch Beetle Xestobium rufovillosum.
Scary name aside, this insect is most often associated with historic buildings, usually affecting the sapwood of hardwoods that have become damp, or been affected by fungal decay.
House Longhorn Beetle Hylotrupes bajulus.
This relatively large insect affects sapwood and is predominantly associated with roofing timbers. They are limited in range to a small part of South East England, but don’t be complacent – infestations, if left unchecked, can lead to severe structural weakening in a relatively short period of time.
When infestations by the Death Watch Beetle and House longhorn beetle are discovered, treatments will always be dictated by site conditions and formulated by an experienced specialist.
Gary Naftel BSc(Hons) MCIArb MRICS
The information in this Coffee Break article is intended for guidance only. The authors cannot accept any liability for any loss or damage which may result from the use of this article.