3 Unique Facts About the Powderpost Beetle

Everyone has heard of termites and know they cause billions of dollars in damage to homes every year. But fewer people may be familiar with the powderpost beetle which, like termites, just love to eat wood. They are second only to termites in the amount of damage they inflict upon American homes and other buildings. That’s an estimated $30 billion per year.

Serious powderpost beetle infections average $3,000 to repair. 

Because it pays to know your enemy, let’s look at three unique facts about powderpost beetles and also round out some other aspects of this ravenous pest that may save you a lot of money and misery.

1. Masters of Stealth

A sinister aspect of this insidious bug is that they are extremely hard to see. They’re tiny (1/16 to ¾ inch) and like to stay hidden under the wood they eat. Thus, you almost never see them directly. Furthermore, they are active only at night.

The best way to detect them is by their calling cards. The primary signs are twofold. First is the fine, flour-like powder they leave behind. They create this powder in the process of eating wood. It accumulates on flat wood surfaces and can pile up in corners where boards meet. Out in the wild, these beetles are known to reduce entire trees into piles of dust!

The second sign of a powderpost invasion is the series of tiny “shot holes” they make by boring into wood. Then they mine narrow, winding tunnels as they move along and feed. These tunnels undermine the integrity of wood which can eventually lead to large-scale failure of a structure.

2. Many Species – the Identification Challenge

Etymologists have identified more than 70 species of powderpost beetle. They categorize them in the sub-family of Lcytinae of the super-family Bostrichoidea. Of these, three are a major nemesis of home owners. They are the lyctids, anobiids, and bostrichids.

If your home is infested with these destructive micro-monsters you may not car a whit about how scientists classify them. But exterminators strive to get an exact determination so they can provide the most effective course of action to treat a home.

Exact identification is important for another reason. Powderpost beetles are easily mistaken for different species. Misidentification can result in costly treatments and repairs that are either unnecessary or do not solve the problem. This is an important factor to discuss with your professional exterminator.

3. Managing, Treating and Preventing

The bad news is that, once a solid determination is made that a home has powderpost beetles, choosing the best course of action can be difficult. The good news is that several options are available. Even more good news: There is rarely a need to panic. Powderpost beetles work extremely slowly. In fact, many exterminators will suggest a “wait and see” approach before plunging ahead with expensive treatments.

Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, one of the best preventive measures is to stain, varnish, paint or otherwise seal wood surfaces. The ability to bore into surfaces is critical to their life cycle. Removing this ability goes a long way toward thwarting their activity.

In building new homes, remodeling or conducting repairs, never accept wood from a supplier that shows the tell-tale signs of powder on the wood. This can be tricky because beetle powder can look an awful lot like ordinary sawdust. It’s more likely to be beetle-made if the wood is old or taken from older buildings for decorative effect.

Another good idea is to control moisture. Powderpost beetles require high moisture content to thrive. Therefore, installing moisture barriers in crawlspaces is helpful. Improving air circulation in damp spaces is another great idea as is improving drainage.

An extreme treatment measure is cutting out and replacing wood what is infected. Fumigation is also considered an extreme and expensive option because of the many precautions and steps required to do it safely and properly. Spray-on insecticides may be helpful, but they must be able to penetrate wood, especially if it is sealed in some way.

The powderpost beetle is a fascinating, although an absolutely unwanted “guest” in any human dwelling. Dealing with them usually requires expert professional extermination help.

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