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|An African Import . . . . . .|
(body length about 15 mm)
This exotic wood-boring beetle of the family Bostrychidae
(one of the commonly called 'false powder-post beetles'), with its large,
distinctive and rather menacing thoracic horns, is found in parts
of Africa and Arabia. It is often imported to Europe (and sometimes
to Britain) in timber. I get occasional enquiries about this beetle
when specimens emerge from ethnic wooden bowls and ornaments that people
have purchased abroad and brought back to the UK as tourist souvenirs!
And Some British Relatives . . . . . .
The tropical Bostrychoplites, pictured above, is
closely related to some of our British wood-boring beetles, such as the true
powder-post beetles (Lyctus spp.) that belong to the family Lyctidae, and
also to members of the family Anobiidae, including the notorious death-watch beetle
(Xestobium rufovillosum) and the common woodworm or furniture beetle
(body length 3-6 mm)
(body length about 6 mm)
(body length about 3 mm)
Piece of oak timber with exit holes of
death-watch beetle &
The larvae (or grubs) of these beetles tunnel into
dead wood, including furniture and the structural timbers of buildings,
and can quickly reduce it to sawdust. Their presence often goes unnoticed
until the adult beetles emerge, leaving behind the familiar tell-tale
signs of 'worm-holes'.
The piece of oak in the first photograph has exit holes of
death-watch beetle (larger holes, actual diameter about 3-4 mm) and furniture
beetle (smaller holes, diameter about 2 mm). The second photograph, shows similar,
small exit holes left by powder-post beetle.
Wood attacked by
In addition to powder-post, death-watch and furniture beetles, there are
several other wood-boring species that frequently invade buildings and may likewise attack
and damage wooden fittings and/or structural timbers. These include Ptilinus pectinicornis,
Hylotrupes bajulus (the house longhorn), Nacerdes melanura (the warf borer) and
two wood-boring weevils, Pentarthrum huttoni and the very similar introduced species,
Ptilinus pectinicornis, male
(body length 4-5 mm)
(body length 10-25 mm)
(body length 7-12 mm)
(body length 2-4 mm)
Control of Domestic Wood-Boring Beetles
Since damage by wood-boring beetles nearly always has its
source in eggs laid by the female, one important method of prevention is to take
care that infested wood, particularly infested furniture, is not introduced into
the house, or if the furniture cannot be dispensed with, to take steps to
eradicate the infestation while it is still localized. Wood can be protected
from infestation and existing infestations eradicated by treatment with a
commercial wood preservative, persistent contact insecticidal fluid, or
preservative-insecticide mixture sold for 'woodworm' control. These
chemicals are made up in appropriate solvents designed to give maximum
penetration of the wood and can be applied by brushing, spraying or
pressure-injection (although the latter method usually requires the
services of a specialist pest control company). Commercial products for
household use should be available from hardware stores, garden centres
and other retail outlets that stock household and garden insecticides.
Ask your local stockist for advice on the range of approved products
available in your area or country, since this varies from place to
The success of insecticide treatment depends largely on
the thoroughness with which the fluid is applied. Special attention should be
given to any rough, unpainted or unpolished surfaces, such as backs, insides
and bottoms of pieces of furniture, for these are the places where eggs are
laid. In addition to brushing or spraying the fluid over all free surfaces,
it should if possible be injected into the exit holes using a small
syringe. After treatment it is best to fill all the exit holes with wax,
or if you wish to hide the holes completely, with plaster or wood-filler
which can be stained and polished to match the wood. Filling the holes
makes it easier to detect the appearance of any fresh holes and so decide
when the infestation has ended.
The best time to apply insecticides to wood is in spring
(March-May) when the insects are near the surface of the wood, just before
they emerge, and so are more accessible to the insecticide. The life cycle
of most wood-boring beetles lasts more than one year, so that to achieve
complete eradication it is essential to repeat the treatment each year
until signs of the attack disappear. The treatment of house timbers is
usually a task for a specialist firm. Where the attack has been so severe that
the strength of timbers is affected, replacement of parts may be unavoidable.
Floorboards, panelling, etc., may have to be removed in order to treat the
under surfaces and joists. In confined areas such as roof spaces, attics or
cellars, the use of insecticide fumigation or smoke generators offer a means
of preventing re-infestation by killing the adult beetles. Consult a specialist
pest control company in dealing with any extensive problem of this kind,
especially where structural timbers may be involved.
REMEMBER TO USE INSECTICIDES SAFELY AND FOLLOW ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PRODUCT LABEL
- See the Pesticide Safety Page for General Precautions on Insecticide Use -|
- Britton, EB. 1961. Domestic Wood-boring Beetles. British Museum (Natural History)
Economic Series No. 11A. London, British Museum (Natural History). 40pp.
- Duffy, EAJ. 1953. A Monograph of the Immature Stages of British and Imported Timber
Beetles. London, British Museum (Natural History). 350pp.
- Hickin, NE. 1975. The Insect Factor In Wood Decay. The Rentokil Library. London,
Associated Business Programmes Ltd. 383pp.
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