Powder Post Beetles

Powder post beetles were so named because the wood upon which they feed is generally eaten into a fine powder substance that looks just like a very fine saw dust. Powder post beetle infestation starts when building lumber has been improperly stored in yards or at building sites. While the lumber was being stored, they make their way into the wood and breed.

Adults beetles lay their eggs in the crevices of uncoated wood and even under the bark areas of the trunk. When the larvae hatch, they start their destructive feeding by meandering tunnels throughout the wood. Sometimes you can see the outline of tunnels near the wood's surface, following the soft areas of the grain, but in many cases you can't see any evidence at all that larvae are present. As the larvae bore, the tunnels behind them become packed with sawdust. They will stop near the surface of the wood, where they will mature. Usually in June, adults break will through the surface, leaving tiny round holes (the size of a pin) where they emerge. Others will leave bigger holes (the size of pencil lead). A fine powder like sawdust will spill from the holes, and can continue to spill out for some time even though an infestation is over. Normally, Powder Post Beetles have a 1-year life cycle; this means that the adults will appear only once each year. And because of this habit the larvae have a feeding period of many months.




As I stated earlier, where excess moisture is a problem, all efforts to correct the cause should be undertaken. It does, however, take wood a long time to dry out, and reducing moisture may not be enough to completely control powder post beetle infestations. The sooner these insects are controlled, the better. Delay only makes the damage greater.

If you find that you definitely have extensive Powder Post Beetle activity which is ruining your structure, there are several chemicals that can be used, but they will not penetrate sealed wood. A more extreme (and expensive) measure is to tent the house and use poison gas to eradicate the beetles. Once this is completed, a Carpenter must replace or reinforce any damaged structural members. Always ask a professional exterminator for advice about your specific situation before you go into extremes. In some cases you'll find it's nothing to be overly concerned about. When I find minor Powder Post Beetle damage that doesn't require replacing wood members, I usually inform my clients to simply monitor for further development.

If your house sits on a crawl space, or has a dirt basement, I recommend covering the earth with 4-6 mil. polyethylene sheeting to reduce the moisture in this area. Then monitor the surface of the sheeting for sawdust falling from the floor joists above.

Inspect the floor or moldings beneath interior wood walls. Little piles of sawdust indicate beetles have been in the wood, but are not necessarily a sign of active infestation.

Schedule annual inspections with a qualified licensed pest inspector.


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Hi Dave,

I want to thank you for the home inspection you did for us at 144 Avis Ave. in Dracut MA. We did not get the house because the home owners did not want to split the cost of fixing that wall. I had gotten two estimates, one from a landscaper and one from a Mason. Both gave an estimate of $15,000.00, for which I am grateful for your inspection and pointing out the wall problem. It would of been an undue burden on us, not to mention I am also grateful about the radon testing also. I just got the results today and they came back at 7.5 and 8.4, so that would of been another expense. I do hope that when we find a new house that you will be able to do our home inspection. Your fee was a drop in the hat, to what it would of cost us to fix the wall and then the cost of venting the basement. My husband was also very impressed with your report and how well it was written. Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know what happened, and hopefully will be doing business with you again very soon.

Have a Good Day
Jackie Sliney


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Last updated on  Dec 28, 2012