The only pest that will do more damage to seasoned, dry, unfinished wood than a powder post beetle is termites. However, several opinions are conflicting about whether finished wood damage is due to a powder post beetle or the termite.

When making a determination about the activity of an infestation and how it should be handled, errors are often made. This results in the bewilderment of homeowners, wood builders, manufacturers, and suppliers, even pest control companies.

The purpose of this article is to clarify past confusion and hopefully prevent further wood damage by these wood boring beetles.

How do you identify a powder post beetle?

Lyctid powderpost beetles grow to a little under a quarter of an inch as an adult. Their coloring is reddish-brown to black, and has a flat shape. When eggs hatch, the beetle larvae or woodworm have a head that is dark brown, with a body-colored cream to white.

In order for the larvae to turn into pupae, they must form tunnels in the wood. The adult beetle will bore the wood out. Emerging beetles come from emergence holes in the tunnels, pushing out fine boring dust and fresh powder. The round pinholes they form are approximately 1/32 to 1/26 inches.

Adult lyctid beetles in certain places have a reddish-brown to black coloring. These insects are also rather slim. Their larvae can be noticed by a C-Shape and are normally cream or white-colored.

Natural habitat, diet, and biology

Natural habitat, diet, and biology of Powder Post Beetle

Adult powderpost beetles have a diet that is primarily that of the sapwood of hardwood, which contains protein, sugar, and starch. Moist wood with high moisture content is their biggest target.

If you want to keep them away from your freshly sawed wood supply, ensure it contains six percent or less moisture. The True Powderpost Beetle is the most popular species found in the U.S. Often, they are discovered in previously infested lumber used to construct buildings--these pests are capable of re-infesting wood.

What do Powderpost Beetles damage, and where do they attack?

The True Powderpost beetle will deposit their eggs by attacking the hardwoods. They find dead tree limbs, branches, and other natural resources all excellent breeding grounds.

Often no one recognizes or overlooks their presence in the wooden items that are stored away. In addition, a True Powderpost Beetle can be present in projects such as furniture, hardwood floors, finished wood, joists, and rafters.

The Lyctidae, or Powderpost beetle, will also get inside finished wood, cured, or stored lumber. Later, these wood borers will emerge and begin attacking the wood. Many times ancient wooden artifacts and antiques are the victims of an attack by these pests.

Hardwood floorings, like walnut, cherry, oak, hickory, and ash, also is attacked by mature larvae. When these hardwoods become damaged, they have large pored-out areas and sapwood rich in starch.

What are the habits and types of the Powder Post Beetle?

Insects that are small in size, approximately one-eighth to three-fourths of an inch long, are often described as Powderpost beetles. These power post beetle insects are able to damage wood to the point it becomes a fine powder substance, much like flour. As the powder post beetles larvae develop, it creates tunnels while feeding to use as exit holes through the wood.

The developmental process

The development of larvae and tunneling is conducted under the wood surface.

Therefore an infestation, just like cigarette beetles, may be difficult to recognize. That is until powder is noticed on a wood surface, followed by tiny circles on the surface of the wood called exit holes.

These exit holes are formed by fully developed adult beetles as they chew through the beetle infested wood, looking for an exit.  When the freshly developed beetles materialize, they are ready to mate—using the surface of bare wood or unfinished wood as the place to secure their eggs, either under or on top of a bare wood surface.

New eggs are born into the wood, hatching into tiny larvae that will take up to five years to develop into adult powder post beetles.

What insect makes a perfect hole in wood?

What insect makes a perfect hole in wood

There are three types of powder post beetles that feed on or make seasoned wood their habitat of preference. Several insects are also wood boring beetles, wreaking havoc and harm to the wooden things you own. This section will discuss some of the most popular wood boring beetles.

Powder post beetles come in the form of three groups--there are the deathwatch beetles, the false powder post, and the true powder post. Each is capable of forming a perfect hole in a piece of wood. When an infestation occurs, these powder post beetle are known to cause damage to and overrun all types of wood surfaces, from furniture to the structural integrity of wooden buildings. They will even attack the wood decorations hanging on the walls!

The primary harm done to wood is created by larvae during the phase of beetle development. As they feed on the wood, they form perfectly round emergency holes from which, once an adult, they can escape. The round holes are formed by their consistently chewing through the surface of wood products.

Certain species of adult beetles are able to bore through other materials that may be enveloping wood beneath them to form their emergence holes. Some of these other materials may be plastic, plaster, or even a supple metal covering seasoned wood.

Where are wood boring beetles found?

The wood boring beetles can be discovered in two types of wood-- hardwoods and softwoods. However, their preference for the two is hardwood. You can recognize their “frass” or droppings by their powder consistency. It is often similar to coffee grounds in size, only more coarse.

Sometimes wood boring beetles are called “deathwatch beetles.” They thrive in areas with over 14 percent moisture content and low ventilation. Wood in these types of climates is most susceptible to an infestation of wood boring beetles.

If there is any infested firewood stored indoors, you could witness the roundheaded or flat-headed ambrosia beetles that are wood-boring. Yet, the chances of seeing one of these pests are not very good since they are primarily insects of the forest. They are not known for attacking furniture or other wooden structures in or around a home.

Life begins with infested wood

This beetle's life cycle begins with an aging tree, one that has suffered severe insect or fire damage. Occasionally, you will discover these insects within the products of milled wood that they come out of. It might be shocking to see them come out of the infested wood that is used when building new construction.

What sort of damage do they create?

Typically wood that has been infested that powderpost beetles prefer are walnut, oak, ash, and hickory. It is noted that these beetles are not much of a threat to the integrity of the majority of homes' structures. Often attacking the wood prior to building.

However, the powder post beetle is capable of affecting the resale value of property because of the wood it demolishes. Even worse, if untreated, it is possible for an active infestation of powderpost beetles to damage hardwood flooring, paneling, trim, and furniture.

The powder post beetle’s life cycle

The first thing female beetles do when coming out of infested wood is to seek a mate. She then must seek a slab that is right for depositing her eggs. The wood most suitable for laying eggs normally is unfinished wood, with nothing clogging the pores of the wood like varnish or paint.

A powder post beetle

Where do adult beetles lay their eggs?

Yet, it does appear the most popular place females lay eggs is the very same exit holes they came out of. This gives the beetle an opportunity to reinfest wood. The new larvae will start to chew on the wood next to the exit holes, and this is how the infestation spreads.

There are four stages to the life cycle of the powderpost beetle: beginning with the egg, the larvae, the pupa, and finally, adulthood. You will find wood that has been infested, the first three stages of development. The larva is recognizable by its enlarged thorax and creamy white grub in a C-shape. This is the stage that is responsible for doing the majority of wood damage by feeding on it.

An adult lyctid powderpost beetle is a cylinder-shaped beetle, dark in color, and has eyes that are spherical. Adults grow up to a quarter of an inch in length. The typical lifespan of a lyctid powderpost beetles beetle is around a year.

Are Powder post beetles worse than termites?

It’s not really a matter of which is worse--powder post beetles or termites? What really matters is how many there are in an infestation. These pests work on a larger and faster scale than termites. In addition, once inside a house, they are much more difficult to get rid of.

Many of the frames of homes are constructed out of softwood. Therefore, the damage to these structures can be caused by certain powder post beetle species.

How to tell it's a powder post beetle?

The way to recognize the adult lyctid powderpost beetles is by their unique shape and size. It is cylinder-shaped, about 3/32 to one-fourth of an inch in length. This beetle is brown in color and known for its hardwood attacks.

The damage created by this beetle is recognizable by the 1/32 to 1/16-inch wide holes in attacked hardwood. You also might notice some extremely fine particles of sawdust that have fallen in the area of the attack.

The powder post beetle’s larvae survive on a variety of hardwood. This wood could include your flooring and trim, baskets, and even furniture. A majority of powder post infestations occur on the wood of homes before construction begins.

What is a sign of powder post beetle infestation?

One sure sign that you have a powder post beetle problem is seeing the frass they leave behind. You might be asking, ‘What is frass?’ It is a mixture of droppings and wood debris that is in the consistency of a fine powder. Frass is often associated with a termite infestation, but it is also created by powderpost beetles.

How do I prevent a powderpost beetle infestation?

How do I prevent a powder post beetle infestation

Listed below are several tips you can take to prevent the damage of a powder post beetle infestation :

  • Keep moisture levels as minimal as possible. If you have a basement or crawl space, ensure these areas are well-ventilated. To cut down on moisture levels in a crawl space, install a vapor barrier. Divert any water or downspouts near your house so that it does not pool up and create more moisture.
  • Get rid of any soil-to-wood contact.  This is imperative if you have a home that has wooden siding. Ensure it is not coming in contact with the soil. This can occur when the soil has been graded, causing it to pile up and accumulate beside the house. Make sure the soil is only touching the foundation but doesn’t go up to the wood siding.
  • Inspect all your trees routinely. This inspection should be to verify there are not any indications of decay present. Powderpost beetles crave trees that have been burned, are dying, or decayed to plant their eggs inside and start an infestation.

How big is a powder post beetle?

Measuring in at just under a quarter of an inch long, the powderpost beetle is a brown and small insect. They are known as pests that go after hardwood and cause a great amount of damage to it.

The first sign that indicates an infestation is tiny holes from 1/15 to ⅛ of an inch around. In addition to the exit, holes are fine sawdust they leave behind. This powder-like substance is what remains after they attack furniture, paneling, flooring, and other wood products.

What is the difference between powderpost beetles, deathwatch beetles, and false powderpost beetles?

When characterizing the name powder post, beetles are in reference to three types. The true powderpost beetles,  the false powderpost beetles, and the deathwatch beetles. Each one of these insects is a wood-boring beetle; with similar characteristics to each other. These beetles chew on wood. It will actually reduce wood to small piles of flour-like powder.

Homes with central heating systems are often less likely to have an issue with these pests because of a decrease in moisture.

The Lyctinae--or True Powderpost Beetles

The favorite wood of a true powderpost beetle is the hardwoods. This includes mahogany, ash, walnut, hickory, and oak. Some of the common places you might discover these adult powderpost beetles are in the following:

  • Plywood
  • Furniture
  • The framing of windows and doors
  • Bamboo
  • Hardwood flooring and wood paneling

You might be thinking, but bamboo isn’t wood. It is a type of grass. However, the pores in bamboo are large and make a perfect place for the female adult to lay eggs.

When the female true powderpost beetles come out, they will lay eggs on the cracks and surfaces of wood pores of any untreated wood. This provides protection within the wood’s pores to their deposited eggs.

This species of Lyctid powderpost beetle has a life cycle of anywhere from three months to over a year--according to environmental conditions.

Woods where you commonly find powder post beetles

The Bostrichidae--or false powder post beetles

The Bostrichidae--false powderpost beetles as an adult measure in at a tiny ⅛ to ¼ of an inch. Yet, there are certain species that get as large as two inches in length out in the wild. False powderpost beetles are dark colored--mostly brown or black. Although their body parts include the mouthparts, legs, and antennae may have a reddish tone.

A false powderpost beetle has a variable lifecycle, with the majority reaching full maturity in up to a year. However, certain species may take as long as two decades to become completely mature.

This species of beetle creates a frass that is the coarsest and grittiest of all three types of powderpost beetles. It actually has a comparable feeling to the textures of flakes of soap. The frass can be noticed inside the exit hole, yet, it can be hard to remove it due to its coarse texture.

The exit holes for a false powderpost beetle are around the same size as other powderpost beetles. In addition, the false powderpost beetles prefer wood surfaces in both soft and hard types. Yet, they can be discovered more often in areas where hardwoods are found.

Where can you find Bostrichidae beetles?

Certain Bostrichidae species of beetles appear in tropical woods like bamboo, some kinds of mahogany, and certain firewood types. They may also be noticed in the branches of dying oak and walnut trees or in eucalyptus and other hardwood ornamental trees.

The activity of this female adult is different from other wood borers that are also female beetles. Instead of searching for cracks or laying eggs on the wood’s surface, these beetles will dig into the wood itself. They form tunnels, or egg galleries, as they search for a crack within the wood to lay their eggs and create emergence holes.

Because of this activity, the female also digs through other types of materials, searching for a safe depository for eggs.  This behavior is the reason they have acquired other monikers like the cask borer or lead cable borer.

The Bostrichidae, or false powderpost beetle, is able to tunnel through wood and other materials that are non-wood. This may be soft metals, like silver and lead, plaster, corks, and oak barrels soaked in wine, and even metal-coated cables to electrical and telephone lines.

Anobiid powderpost beetles

The anobiid powderpost beetles have an odd name. However, they are quite similar to a number of other pests within the pantry storage. These pests include cigarette and drugstore beetles. Ranging in average sizes of a quarter inch to ⅜ of an inch, the adult deathwatch beetle is dark brown or a reddish brown hue.

Similar to the Lyctinae species of beetles, anobiid powderpost beetles lay eggs that are deposited on the surface of wood, or in cracked or exposed wood pores, instead of first tunneling into infested wood. To fully mature, the deathwatch beetle may take as long as two years.

The frass of the anobiid powderpost beetles, or the deathwatch powder post beetle damage, however, is made up of tiny pellets, much coarser than that of the true powderpost beetles. Yet, not quite as coarse as that of the false powderpost beetle. Their holes for exiting may be a number of sizes, making them more unique and dissimilar to other families of powderpost beetles.

The majority of woods the Deathwatch beetle infests are softwood. A favorite soft wood this beetle prefers is the Douglas fir. The wood from a Douglas fir is popularly used as support beams, used for such things as the foundation, ceiling, and sometimes furniture.

Deathwatch beetles also love any kind of decaying or old wood because they prefer a high wood moisture content and are often discovered in climates that are damp.

How do you get rid of and repair the damage of powderpost beetles?

How do you get rid of and repair the damage of powderpost beetles

Just like drugstore and cigarette beetles, you need a product not only to kill exposed larvae and kill beetles but will also to avert re-infestation.

Fumigating with methyl bromide or sulfur fluoride has been one of the most effective methods to accomplish this.

You can use structural fumigation as a way to get rid of powder post beetle and repair the damage to infested furniture. There are also wood replacement products available that are cement-based—such treatments as fumigation chambers work well when placing infested furniture in small areas.

Natural ways to get rid of powderpost beetles

Some homeowners dislike the use of harsh chemicals and poisons as a means of pest control. Therefore, we have listed in this section some natural remedies for getting rid of powderpost beetles.

  • Alter the temperature. If you are able to do so, try and relocate any infested wood to an extremely colder or warmer climate.
  • The use of Borate salt works well to eliminate these pests naturally.
  • Essential oils
  • Relocate or get rid of all infested wood.

When it’s time to call a professional pest control service

It’s time to call a professional when all other efforts have been exhausted and the problem still exists. A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox knows all about removing beetle larvae, adult powderpost beetles, and other wood-infesting beetles.

Give A.N.T. Pest Control a call today. We can help eliminate any active infestations of powder post beetle and stop future wood damage to your home!

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New Lenox, IL 60451


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