What do gleaming wooden floors, an original Art Deco drinks trolley and a bag of braai wood have in common? They’re all potential homes of powder post beetles.
Older South African homes typically consist of timber structures. Supporting beams, wooden decks or floors, skirting boards and dado rails add charm, but at a potentially high cost. Powder post beetles, also known as woodworm, can cause costly structural damage – even years after an initial infestations.
The term powder post beetle refers to the various forms of beetles that damage wood.
Powder post is a collective term for wood-boring organisms. In South Africa, there are three types of beetles that fall under this moniker: the common furniture beetle (named after their habit of infesting wooden furniture); Bostrichid or horned powder post beetles and Lictid powder post beetles. A ravenous appetite for timber unites these pests in their quest for wood domination.
Tell-tale signs that you’re sharing your home with a family of powder post beetles.
Luckily for homeowners, powder post beetle leave little (tiny, in fact) clues hinting at their existence. When a piece of timber has been infested, you’ll find bit of sawdust – also known as frass – lying on the floor or on the timber structure itself.
Contrary to popular belief, the damage caused by these hungry pests is inflicted by the larvae (thus their other moniker – woodworm). After hatching, these miniature creatures tunnel through wood. The teeny piles of sawdust you see? The product of wood that’s been digested and then excreted by these voracious creatures.
An infestation of powder post beetle is difficult to tackle, due to their lengthy life-cycle.
The length of a wood borer beetle’s life cycle is dependent on the availability of food. If supplies are scarce, females will lay more eggs in order to increase the chances of the next generation’s survival. This cycle is typically between 11 – 14 months, as these beetles undergo a metamorphosis from eggs, to larvae, to pupae and then into adult beetles.
Powder post beetles can be hard to eradicate, as larvae have been known to spend months or even years feeding on the starch content of wood. Once they’ve had their fill, adult beetles will emerge out of a hole that’s equal to the size of a pin head.
The integrity of wooden structures becomes compromised over time, as generations of larvae tunnel their way through their edible home.
Wooden floors – typically those made out of oregon or pine – can eventually collapse. If you have timber beams in your roof – the peak will start to sag after a prolonged infestation. Over a period of time, the powder post beetle can cause costly and extensive damage, due to the fact that ageing wood naturally becomes more porous with age. Add wood borer beetles into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
A lot of damage we see in homes is, in fact, attributed to old infestations. Even if all powder post beetles have been removed, these pests can leave their mark long after their demise.
The gypsy of pests, a powder post beetle introduces itself into your home after hitching a ride on an already-infested piece of wood.
The wily nature of these critters enables them to gain access to new and old houses alike. If you’ve ever bought second-hand furniture, wooden curios or a bag of firewood, you’ve put your home at risk. Many African curios – common roadside attractions – are riddled with powder post beetle. If you’re going to bring in wooden artefacts or furniture, make sure to do your research before installing these into your home.
A cursory inspection will alert you to any possible pests – tiny holes or piles of sawdust on the surface will indicate an infestation. Ideally, fire wood should be used for outdoor fires only, as this is also a common culprit when it comes to the introduction of powder post beetles into a home.
Your approach to powder post beetles should be one of protecting your investment.
Regardless of whether you’re planning on selling your house or want to stay firmly put for the foreseeable future, it’s advisable to inspect your home. Bear in mind that while a wood borer beetle certificate isn’t required by law – South African financial institutions insist on it when processing a deed of sale.
We firmly believe that prevention is always better than cure, which is why an annual inspection should be conducted. If your home is built predominantly out of timber, or if your furniture consists of various vintage pieces, it’s best to do this sooner, rather than later.
Image Credit: 3 Monkeys