December 23, 2009

How Do I Know if I’ve Got Woodworm at Home?

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There may be an alarming moment in the life of a homeowner when one realises that wood is being attacked by insects or, more specifically, woodworm.  It will not take an entomologist to realise when wood has corroded and starts to separate and fall apart.  Woodworm can have a dramatic impact on a home, in terms of property value, peace of mind and even structural damage.  The worst stages of woodworm infestation are the ones to worry about, but it can be detected beforehand.

What are the signs of woodworm infestation?  Generally, there will be small holes in wood, accompanied by bits of dust on the ground.  These holes are the exit points for the beetles (which are in larval from) and will be the obvious sign there is a problem.  Although hard woods are less common for wormwood infestation, it is a possibility.  Nonetheless, soft woods are the main target for wormwood.  Look for the signs of these main beetle types responsible for wormwood:

Common furniture beetles: Will attack plywood and softwood and tunnel along the grain, leaving a grittier dust and pellets in the shape of a lemon.  These beetles will emerge in the months between May and August after a growing period of nearly three years.

Waney edge borers: This beetle will also attack softwoods, but only those with some kind of bark present.  These borers are not necessarily a major threat.  They will leave holes around 2 mm in diameter and pellets that are bun-shaped.  While often confused with the furniture beetle, they inflict no real damage.

Wood boring weevils: These weevils will go after any wood that is decaying and tunnel through wood very close to the surface and with the grain.  Infested wood will show holes that are frayed around the edges, with bore dust of a gritty texture.  Adults and larvae are both suspects.  When weevils are detected, the main concern is dealing with excessive moisture, as mould has caused the wood to deteriorate.

Powder post beetles: Another beetle that preys on sapwood, as well as other hardwoods with wider pores, is the powder post beetle.  Their tunnels also run along the grain of the wood, with holes 1-2 mm in diameter and a floury dust residue visible.  Homeowners who are planning a major project and have been storing large amounts of wood may reckon with these beetles.  Otherwise, they will be a problem for construction companies and lumber yards.

House longhorn beetle: This beetle prefers seasoned soft woods as well as sapwood and will leave large oval exit holes as large as 9 mm in diameter.  Tunneling is quite intense and pellets left can be described as similar to the shape of a sausage.  If these beetles are detected, a homeowner is probably facing major structural damage.  In fact, normally only a small portion of wood will remain.

Treatment for woodworm problems may not be an immediate concern in some cases, but the problem is not going to go away on its own.  Wood sealing and protection is recommended after the pests are eliminated.

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