How to treat woodworm damage

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Don't panic. Those distinctive little holes in your floorboards or wooden furniture don't necessarily mean you have a problem.

What is woodworm?

Woodworm is a general term used to describe the larvae of any wood-boring beetle – they look a bit like little worms.

Often when people think they have woodworm, what they're looking at are the holes left by the common furniture beetle, Anobium punctatum.

The adult beetle is 3-4mm long and lays its eggs in damp softwood or hardwood. It's the larvae that damage the wood as they spend 3-5 years boring through it before they emerge as adults.

When they leave the wood, they burrow up to the surface, leaving that distinctive small hole.

Other wood-boring beetles include Death Watch, Powder Post and House Longhorn beetles. These are much less common but can do more damage than the common furniture beetle.

How do I know if I have a woodworm problem?

Seeing tiny holes in your floorboards or furniture doesn't necessarily mean you have a current infestation. It just goes to show that woodworm has been there in the past.

If you have an active woodworm problem you'll find fine powdery dust around or underneath the holes. You may also see the adult beetles emerging from the holes between May and October. And if you dig down into the wood, you'll be able to see the larvae.

Should I worry about woodworm?

If you're sure you have a woodworm problem, you need to identify which type of woodworm you have.

Common furniture beetle

This beetle rarely causes major structural damage. However, despite its name, it doesn't just bore into furniture, it can also attack wooden instruments and wicker goods. So check all wooden items regularly to make sure they don't get damaged.

If you find evidence of infestation, the larvae can usually be treated easily with a proprietary woodworm killer that you just apply directly to the piece of furniture or structural timber.

If you think you have an extensive problem, it may be worth employing a trained expert.

Death Watch, Powder Post and House Longhorn beetles

An infestation of these beetles can be more problematic than the common furniture beetle. Although, thankfully, they are more unusual and therefore less likely to cause a problem in the first place.

The British Pest Control Association recommend that if you think your structural timbers are infested, you should call in professional help. To get rid of the problem they may need to use products that are not available to the public.

Will my home insurance cover the cost of treatment?

Woodworm damage is considered to be gradual deterioration and part of the wear and tear of a building, so always check whether your home insurance covers this.

Whilst LV= won't cover woodworm damage specifically, you can add home emergency cover to your LV= buildings insurance to cover other pests such as bees, wasps, hornets, rats mice and squirrels.

If you keep on top of the maintenance of the timber in your home, you should be able to spot woodworm before it gets too damaging. Catching it early makes it easier and less expensive to treat.

How can I prevent woodworm damage?

The beetles that cause woodworm only want to lay their eggs in wood that provides a nurturing environment for their larvae. So they generally choose damp or rotten timber.

Therefore if you keep the humidity low in your home and make sure wood is dry and well ventilated you should discourage the beetle from laying eggs.

Before you bring any old wooden furniture in to your home, check it for signs of recent woodworm activity. If you suspect it may contain active woodworm, get it treated before you place it in your home.

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