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Property Surveying Blog

December 15, 2016

Pests in Timber

Written by Berry Lodge Surveyors

If you have ever been inside a medieval house with exposed timber beams, wooden doors and often wooden floors, you will have likely noticed small holes to the surfaces of the timber.

Wood Boring Beetle Damage

Unbeknown to most, these holes aren’t a characteristic of the wood, instead they are actually caused by several timber eating beetles and their larvae!

These pests consume their way through the wooden beams and timber portions of the house and if left to thrive and unchecked, the weakened of the timber could result in the structural failure of the building itself.

I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the common and different types of pests we have within the UK, as well as the treatments available.

Understanding which pests are responsible for which issue, in addition to an understanding of the right way to treat the issue are both important factors in stopping the continued attack and preserving the structure of your home.

This blog post will focus on those pests that lay their eggs within the timber, with the main damage being caused through the action of those larvae eating their way through and out of the timber.

Lets take a look at a few of the most prolific beetles in the UK:

Powder Post Beetle

Named for the result of their attack, the powder post beetle will eat the inside of timber whilst leaving the outside perfectly intact until touched when it will turn to powder!

These pests commonly attack newly seasoned hardwood timbers and are more of a risk in older properties with replacement oak or elm beams.

An insect with a shorter life cycle than the others mentioned with a larval stage of 1 to 2 years. However, it is not to be underestimated, for this beetle has the worst reputation in the UK for causing the most damage in the shortest period of time.

Wood-Boring Weevil

Wood-Boring Weevil These beetles cause damage mainly by the actions of their larvae.

A Wood-Boring Weevil will attack all types of timber with a high moisture content and preferably in an area with low ventilation.

Wood-Boring Weevil boreholes are recogniseable as they are oval shaped with ragged edges, whereas the boreholes left by the other beetles are much finer and often leave a very fine wood dust behind.

Deathwatch Beetle

Ask any owner of a medieval house what their worst nightmare is and this name will come up!

Death Watch BeetleThis large (6-8mm) dark brown beetle has the longest life cycle of timber targeting insects, with their larval stage lasting for up to 10 years. It can be identified by the size of the holes left in the timber, which are 3mm or more in diameter, larger than other common timber pests.

Not only will this pest attack timber for a long period of time, it also prefers to target timber that is hidden away, and thereby avoids detection. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it also tends to target timber that has been or is currently subject to decay by fungus and moisture.

Common Furniture beetle

Common Furniture BeetleThese beetles target furniture during the manufacturing process and in advance of the varnish being applied.

Unbeknown to the purchases of the furniture, the larvae will already be inside the timber waiting to strike!

The larvae can live within the timber for around 3 years and tend to prefer sapwoods to hardwoods. Once the larvae matures, they will exit the timber leaving a small recognisable hole and a network of tunnels.

How to deal with Pests

Timber pests can be notioriously hard to get rid of, with most treatments marketed and based around chemical control through spraying or injecting the affected timbers with a pesticide.

As a ball park figure, it can cost anywhere between £500.00 to £1,000.00 to treat the affected area in your home, however that can quickly increase depending on the infestation size and seriousness of the infestation.

Injection of Pesticide

This method of treatment involves the use of a pesticide gel or paste, which is injected into pre drilled holes within affected portions of the timber.

The treatment aims to kill larvae in situ by filling their tunnels and by ingestion of the impregnated wood.

Spraying of Pesticide

This method of treatment involves spraying a boron or ammonia based pesticide onto the timber to soak the surface by 2 to 3mm. It will therefore kill any pest, beetle or larvae exposed to the pesticide by ingestion or contact.

Although effective in some instances, as pests and their larvae can live deep within the timber this is generally the least effective of the two treatments.

Both of these pest treatments will usually have to be repeated many times and until all larvae and adult pests have been destroyed.  With some larvae living for up to 10 years inside the timber, as you can imagine this can be a long and costly process.

Habitat Destruction    

What most homeowners aren’t usually aware of is that timber pests thrive within damp or moist property conditions.

These conditions promote the growth of mould and fungal fruiting bodies that the pests in turn feed on. The damp environment also helps soften the timber itself, thereby making it easier for the pests to bore into, and in some cases the removal of the dampness will remove the infestation altogether.

Wood Boring Beetle DamageIn many cases, simply removing the source that is leading to the dampness and increasing ventilation to the affected effected area can limit the risk of not only an infestation starting, but also reduce the rate of reproduction and possibility of current larvae survival.

If you have a timber pest issue within your property, we would suggest speaking to an experienced qualified pest control provider at your first opportunity. As with any issue the sooner you act the quicker you can resolve the issue.