How To Identify And Treat Wood Worms?

June 21, 2015

Your wooden floor is full of small woodworm holes? It may add a distinguished note of character to old wood flooring, but it’s not necessarily a sign that wood-eating larvae/grubs are consuming your floor, as the infestation could be dormant for long now. Today, we’ll focus on woodworm and try to figure out what stands behind this term.

We’ll try to identify the species, describe the damage that can result from the presence of those tiny creatures in wooden elements and list the methods of combating them that are available on the market.

You can find woodworm anywhere in your home where you’ve got timber, if that area offers favourable conditions for infestation. Various types of woodworm have different preferences for different wood species and places, for instance: furniture, skirting boards, floorboards, joinery, rafters or joists, including roof joists. Usually, buildings with a woodworm problem in the structure or furniture probably have problems with excess damp.

The term woodworms explained

A woodworm is not a specific species. This term encompasses the larval stage of certain wood boring beetles. It encompasses:

• Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum), as the most common type of woodworm

• Deathwatch Beetle (Xestobium rufuvillosum)

• House Longhorn Beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus)

Usually, beetles occur in wooden items with a moisture content greater than 18%, as damp is the primary factor here. Adult beetles lay their eggs on the surface of a wooden item or just below it, then their larvae damage wood, burrowing through the timber, which is their only food source. They tunnel and feed for a couple of years, then mature and grow, pupating and emerging as adult beetles. Thus, they bore their way to the surface. Therefore, if you see holes, this means that there has been an infestation, not that there necessarily still is an infestation.

Signs of woodworm

If you want to see if your woodworm are dormant or still active, you need to check if you can see the following symptoms:

• creamy-white larvae, which is usually curved in shape, emerges when you scratch away the surface of wood; the floorboards are damaged and weak

• small amounts of fresh bore dust around the holes are visible

• you can see adult beetles getting out of the holes, especially during the Spring and Summer season, from May to September, or present anywhere in your home.


Species of woodworm – identification

You must remember that not all woodworm are harmful. Therefore, at first you need to identify the species of woodworm in your house, before you move on to choosing the proper treatment. You can contact the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) or find relevant information in a book by Bravery et al. entitled ‘Recognising Wood Rot and Insect Damage in Buildings’. Read on to find out the main characteristics of each woodworm type that will help you identify your unwanted guests:

The Common Furniture Beetle

Also called common house borer. It usually occurs in softwood species and makes 1-2 millimetre exit holes and spills dust around them. It occurs in loft timbers, old furniture and damp floorboards, especially when the finish or polish material has worn off.

The House Longhorn Beetle

Also known as old-house borer. I’s rather rare in the UK, but several cases have been identified in some areas. Its beetle seems to like roof timbers. It attacks freshly produced sapwood of softwood species, cutting oval exit holes of 6–10 mm. That woodworm species significantly damages timber.

The Deathwatch Beetle

That wood boring beetle favours moist, decaying hardwood species, e.g. chestnut, oak and ash, and in particular timber used in the southern regions of the UK. This beetle causes very severe damage, as the larvae tunnel towards the centre of the timber, especially as it has a 10-year lifecycle.


Treatment of woodworm

Try to get information from several sources, as not all sorts of woodworm require the application of a specialist treatment. Make sure that your wood flooring supplier is a member of PCA.

If you order any wooden items, such as furniture, or have wooden flooring installed, always get a guarantee for the works performed. You can use beeswax and turpentine to fill woodworm holes, or you can leave them, as they will add character to your floors.

The Common Furniture Beetle

In this case, you can take care of the treatment on your own, as this type of woodworm rarely causes structural damage of wood. Use ‘boron’, by applying two coats of this odourless, water-based substance, by either brushing it or spraying onto the floor.

The House Longhorn Beetle

That’s a pest which requires treatment by professionals from the Property Care Association ( PCA).

The Deathwatch Beetle

This beetle burrows deep in the wood, so the wood is severely damaged. You’ll need a consultation with a professional, before you go on with the treatment, which usually consists in using ‘boron’ woodworm treatment.

The cost of woodworm treatment

An owner of an average house has to take into account the costs of a woodworm treatment ranging from £400 to £1,000. That would be a blanket pesticide treatment for such a house. ‘Boron’ surface treatment in the case of small or medium infestation costs about £30 per 25 sqm. The cost of injectable gels and pastes is somewhat higher.

The same applies to leave-in rods which are left within the wood structure combating dampness. If you’re looking for a cheaper option than ‘boron’, you can use ‘permethrin’, but remember that it’s toxic e.g. to pets.

Prevent woodworm from coming back

Take great care to reduce humidity levels in your house, ensuring good ventilation. A timber moisture meter is also a good idea, as it will help you determine moisture levels and, in the case the levels are too high, you will be able to act in advance. Keep the moisture content below 12% and the risk of infestation will be really low.

Get rid of all the wood that’s affected, as woodworm may spread to other timber items.

Consider getting ultraviolet insect killers to help you get rid of emerging adult beetles in the spring and summer period.

If you have a further questions regarding wood worms or you are looking for an advice about the best wood flooring for your home feel free to contact the ESB sales team. Contact us now to request your no hassle no obligation free samples or come down to our North London showroom for a closer look. 

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