Woodworm is the common term for wood-boring insects and the damage they do to timber.

The insects are different species of beetles and weevils, and they spend most of their life as larvae which is when they eat the wood and make the distinctive tunnels and holes associated with woodworm.

If left untreated, woodworm can cause extensive and structural damage to property. In most cases though, it is possible to get rid of woodworm and prevent new infestations before then.

What Are the Different Types of Woodworm Beetle?

In the UK there are five main types of woodworm insects:

  1. Common furniture beetle: likes all wood. They live for up to five years.

  2. Deathwatch beetle: likes old hardwood structural timbers (old stately homes) not newer softwood. They can live for up to ten years

  3. Woodboring weevils: they are found in wet timber and often in damp joist ends

  4. Powderpost beetles: they prefer oak, ash, mahogany and walnut woods.

  5. House longhorn beetle (found mainly in Surrey): they are known for causing severe internal damage to wooden structures

Woodworm life cycles follow similar patterns. The adult female will lay up to about 50 eggs in the small holes and cracks in dead wood. The larvae hatch and start their destructive stage. They will spend the next few years hidden from view eating the dead wood and creating their recognisable tunnel networks.

The average length of time for this period for most of the species is 2-5 years, although some can be much longer. Humidity levels within the wood can affect how long the larvae stage lasts.

When the larvae are ready to become adult beetles, they eat their way to the timber surface making the characteristic exit holes.

The new adult beetles will then leave the timber, often by flying, to look for mates before reproducing and laying their eggs in the wood. The beetles and weevils only live for a few days as adults.

This adult stage is usually in the warmer months from spring until autumn, and this is when you may see the beetles.

What Damage Can Woodworm Do?

The damage will depend on the type of woodworm present.

Some woodworm larvae will remain close to the surface of the timber whereas others will burrow deep into the wood leaving it weak, brittle, and structurally unsafe.

How Do I Spot Woodworm?

An active woodworm infestation is difficult to spot, as the larvae remain hidden in the wood until they are ready to become adults. You may see exit holes from where the woodworm left the timber to become adult beetles. ‘Frass’ is the fine dust left behind at the exit holes and is from the woodworm eating its way out of the timber.

The adult beetles are attracted to light and you may find dead beetles on windowsills. You may occasionally see tiny bundles of eggs in cracks, crevices and the entrances of old exit holes.

Can I Get Rid of Woodworm Myself?

You can buy products in DIY stores which you can apply yourself. These are aimed at treating self-contained and small infestations, such as on an old piece of furniture you plan to bring into your home, rather than wide-scale timberwork.

If you are treating woodworm yourself, it is important to check that you know which type of woodworm you have, as not all treatments will be effective in all cases. You should also follow the instructions exactly and protect yourself from the chemicals as advised.

How Can I Prevent Woodworm?

Regularly checking your property for signs of damp and treating any causes of water ingress quickly will also make your property less welcoming to woodworm.

Woodworm thrives in conditions where the timber humidity levels are above 14 per cent and so keeping them low is key. Modern-day heating and keeping your property well-ventilated help here.

Checking and treating any timber items before they are brought into your property will also help reduce the risk of a woodworm infestation.

Why Should I Get Expert Help?

If you suspect that you have woodworm, it is best to seek specialist help straight away.

The different woodworm species mean that there are a lot of variables which need to be considered. Different treatment types and methods are used depending on the woodworm species, the wood, location, and severity of the infestation.

The surveyors will also have to check to see if the infestation has spread, as well as the extent of any timber damage.

Each species of wood-boring insects prefer different timber species and types. Some will stay close to the timber surfaces whereas others will burrow deep into the wood causing severe damage to its structure and strength.

It may be that the infestation is no longer active but the damage to the wood will still have to be assessed for structural damage to the property.

How Do Specialists Treat Woodworm?

The first step is an extensive assessment by a specialist surveyor to find out if there are any active infestations, the type of woodworm, and the extent of any damage.

You will then be advised of the findings, proposed treatments and repairs for any water ingress, and damp-related issues such as dry rot. The aim is to treat any issues and prevent any future woodworm infestations.

The most common first-line treatment is a chemical spray, which kills the insects on contact. Gels and spreads can also be applied or injected to kill any deep-burrowing larvae.

The chemicals and methods used will depend on the type of woodworm, the timber affected and the extent of the damage. It may also be necessary to carry out wood repairs or replacement of some timbers.

If you have any questions or concerns, our team at Danford Brewer and Ives Ltd are happy to help. We can also carry out all aspects of woodworm prevention and treatment for you.

Contact Danford Brewer and Ives today to discuss any woodworm problems at your property.