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Woodworm-But is it Active?

Posted by: on 02/09/2020


This week I was asked to carry out a survey of the roof void in a property in Hartlepool to determine whether the woodworm was active or historic. The issue had been raised by a surveyor who had carried out a homebuyer's report on behalf of the prospective purchaser. The evidence clearly showed that the infestation is active as there were very obvious tell-tale signs which assisted me in reaching this conclusion.

The life cycle of wood-boring insects (woodworm) is relatively simple in that a female will lay her eggs in any cracks or openings on the surface of the timber. As long as the conditions are right the eggs will hatch out and the larvae (think of a small maggot) will then tunnel its way through the timber until such time that it forms a pupa. The larvae will then go through pupation and emerge as an adult insect ready to continue the lifecycle. The larvae can remain in the timber for 1-4 years and will emerge when the conditions are right.

As the beetle emerges from the timber it will bore through the timber creating a fine powder/dust which is often referred to as bore dust or Frass. The colour and texture of the Frass can vary depending on the type of timber infested and the type of woodworm. In this instance, the woodworm was the most common found in the Uk which is 'common furniture beetle' (anobium punctatum) which accounts for approximately 80% of the woodworm infestations found in properties in the UK.

In the photographs, the bore dust/frass can clearly be seen on the surface of the timbers which indicates that an adult beetle has emerged from those locations. The infestations were scattered throughout the roof timbers and subsequently, I have recommended to the client that they employ the services of a specialist contractor to carry out a chemical treatment of the timbers using an appropriate pesticide.

If you see suspect that you have of woodworm infestation you can carry out a bit of DIY to determine if the infestation is active or not and this can be done by placing a piece of paper over the infested timber and leaving it there for a period of approximately 12 months. If adult beetles are emerging from the timber they will bore through the paper and provide you with conclusive evidence that the infestation is active. If you do not detect evidence of activity within 12 months it is beneficial to leave the paper on for another 12 months (if possible for a period of up to 3 years) as the woodworm can survive in the timber for that duration of time before it actually emerges as an adult. If after three years you have not detected any activity it would be reasonable to conclude that the infestation is historic and the need for remedial work would not be justified. If you are uncertain and require any additional advice, please feel free to get in touch and I will be happy to assist wherever possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you find it helpful.

Best Regards


Traces of bore dust indicate recent woodworm activity.
The flight holes can be seen where the adult beetle has emerged.
The trail of bore dust is evidence of an active infestation.
Evidence of bore dust on the ceiling is another obvious sign of recent activity.
Distinct trails of bore dust are clearly visible.
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