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Wood borers with long antennae

Tackling Wood Borers: Identification, Treatment and Prevention

Wood borers are a type of pesky beetle that can cause significant damage to wooden furniture and structures. These small insects burrow into the wood, laying their eggs and feeding on the timber itself. Over time, this can weaken the structure of the wood and cause it to become brittle or even disintegrate. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the signs of wood borer infestation and the treatment options available for affected furniture. 

Read on to find out how you can protect your home from these pesky invaders!

    What Are Wood Borers?

    Close up of a two wood borers

    Wood borers are beetles that feed on wood as well as timber furnishings and flooring. 

    Some common wood borer species that you can find in Singapore include the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum), powderpost beetle (Lyctus brunneus) and the pinhole borer (Ambrosia beetle).

    Though they are of different species, the beetles all look pretty similar. They come in varying shades of dark brown and black, with elongated and flattened-looking bodies of between 1 – 7mm.

    Life Cycle of a Wood Borer

    Wood borer larvae

    The appearance of the wood borer varies significantly throughout its life cycle. Here’s what to look out for at each stage:

    Egg
    • Female wood borers lay eggs in cracks and crevices of wood, and even in old exit holes left by previous adult beetles. 
    • Eggs usually hatch between 6 – 10 days after being laid.
    Larva
    • The longest stage of the beetle’s life cycle. 
    • Once hatched, the larvae stay in the wood for 2 – 5 years until they pupate which makes it difficult to spot them.
    • The larvae tunnel downwards, feeding on the wood which weakens the structure. 
    • As the larvae create tunnels, you might observe small accumulations of white, powdery bore dust in crevices.
    Pupa
    • Once the larva is ready to pupate, it starts to make its way up to the surface, creating a larger tunnel near the top for its pupal chamber.
    • There it stays for about 6 – 8 weeks until it emerges.
    Adult
    • As an adult beetle, it will start to eat away at the final layer of wood, pushing out bore dust that’s in its path. 
    • You may spot clean exit holes on wood and bore dust/frass below the infested wood.

    Signs of Wood Borer Infestation 

    Overlooking a wood borer infestation can result in serious structural damage to your wooden furniture. Here are some signs that these wood boring insects have already made their mark on your timber.

    Eggs

    Wood borer eggs

    If you’re buying wooden boards and planks for your own projects, make sure to check for eggs that may have been laid in any nooks and crannies. Though it may be tough to see the tiny creamy white eggs, it pays to be diligent as this is the first sign that your wood has been infested. 

    While most furniture wood is treated and coated, you’re still recommended to inspect your wooden products for signs of wood borers.

    Bore Dust/Frass

    Wood borer dust under the furniture

    Bore dust, which is the excrement of the wood borer during its larva and adult life stages, can often be found in little piles outside or below a wooden object. They resemble wood dust that’s either white and powdery, or yellow and clumpy. 

    Exit Holes

    Exit holes on wood caused by wood borers

    If you notice clean, circular holes in your wood that appear to have been drilled in multiple spots, they are likely exit holes made by adult wood boring beetles. 

    At this point, it is highly likely that there are no remaining wood borers, and the structural integrity of the timber furniture or flooring has already been compromised.

    Crumbling/Weak Furniture or Floorboards

    If you’ve also noticed that your wood furniture is crumbling at its edges or wooden floorboards start to feel spongy, it would behove you to check for any bore dust or exit holes. 

    With all the tunnelling done by the wood borers, the interior structure of your wood might be seriously damaged. 

    Treatment of Wood Borers in Furniture

    After you’ve identified a wood borer infestation, prompt treatment is necessary to prevent further damage and preserve the integrity of your wood furniture.

    Chemical Treatments

    Borate-based Products and Insecticide

    Borate and insecticide is the most effective way in killing off wood borers. Though borate-based products are made of chemicals that are deadly to pests like wood borers, most on the market are harmless to humans and pets.

    These products are usually applied to the wood directly, killing off the beetles as it penetrates the wood. Not only are they effective in treating an infestation, borate and insecticide can also be used as preventive measures. 

    Fumigation

    Some people prefer to leave pest control to the experts. Most of the time, pest specialists will recommend fumigation if the damage done by wood borers is extensive. The chemical fumes can penetrate every nook and cranny to ensure the pests will no longer bother you.

    Natural Home Remedies

    Diatomaceous Earth

    Diatomaceous earth (DE) is an all-natural product derived from fossilised algae. It is highly effective as it penetrates the exoskeleton of hard-shelled pests, which dehydrates and kills them.

    1. Sprinkle or dust the powder behind furniture such as shelving units and wooden seats.
    2. You may also dust them along dark and damp areas of your wood.
    3. As DE loses its effectiveness when wet, do replace the product when it feels moist. 

    Bleach

    Another effective method of removing wood borers is creating a bleach mixture for your wood. This technique works best for wood pieces that can be dismantled and reassembled again. 

      1. Create a solution of 1.5 cups of bleach to 4 litres of water. 
      2. Adjust the amount accordingly to ensure that all your wood pieces can be submerged in the solution.
      3. Soak the wood for 1 – 2 days to ensure the bleach has fully penetrated the wood and killed off any wood borers.
      4. Allow your wood to dry before using.

      Essential oils

      Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils are highly effective in deterring wood borers and other common pests. While this natural remedy may not fully eradicate the beetles, it can serve as a good preventive step. 

        1. Spray and brush the essential oils on the wood consistently for at least 3 days.
        2. Reapply every month or so for it to remain effective. 

        Process of Treating Wood Borer Infestation

        Step 1: Determine if the Infestation is Active

        If your wood has an active infestation, the bore dust you see will be white and powdery. This means that it’s likely that there are larvae still burrowing in the wood. 

        However, if you see bore dust that is yellow and clumpy, that usually means that the larvae have turned into adult beetles and are no longer present in the wood. This shows that you have a non-active infestation.

        Step 2: Decide on the Right Type of Treatment

        For non-active infestations, you’ll have to make a decision on whether you want to remove and replace the infected wood. If your infected wood is close to another timber object, it might be prudent to throw it out to avoid a potential spread.

        If you decide otherwise, you can also use a sealant to cover any cracks or holes to prevent any other pests from entering.

        As for active infestations, the most effective solution will be to spray insecticide and brush on a borate-based product to kill off any wood borers before sealing off any crevices.

        Step 3: Seek Professional Help

        If the above solutions are not working or if you’re uncertain about the next appropriate course of action, it is advisable to seek the assistance of certified pest experts. They can evaluate the extent of the damage and suggest a solution that suits your particular circumstances.

        How to Prevent Wood Borer Infestations

        The best way to avoid wood borers from infiltrating your home is to stop them from entering your home in the first place. Inspect any new wood or wood items for bore holes and wood borer eggs in crevices before you let them in the front door. 

        Even if everything seems fine to the naked eye, you can apply a borate-based product on unfinished wood to be certain about the absence of wood borers. This applies to wood that doesn’t have any paint, stain or sealers present. The borax will kill off the wood borers as it penetrates the wood. 

        It’s also recommended to seal cracks and crevices on finished wood surfaces to deter the wood borers from breeding. These pests are attracted to wood with high moisture content, so try to keep the wood dry and away from dark and damp areas.

        To avoid becoming complacent, make it a habit to perform checks from time to time to ensure that your wood isn’t infected by these wood boring insects!

        FAQs on Wood Borers

        Are wood borers dangerous?

        Wood borers can’t directly harm you but a common parasite (Scleroderma Domesticum) that feasts on wood borer larvae can. 

        The parasite tends to bite humans which causes swelling and painful rashes that will subside after a few days. For more serious cases, an allergic reaction may happen and medical attention will be required.

        Thus, it’s critical to spot infested furniture early and remove them before there’s prolonged exposure to any parasites.

        Do wood borers bite humans?

        No, wood borers do not bite humans. However, females of the parasite, Scleroderma Domesticum, have stingers that can cause swelling and rashes when they penetrate human skin.

        What is the difference between wood borers and termites?

        Although both wood borers and termites can cause structural damage to wood furniture and timber flooring, there are some key differences that set them apart:

        Wood Borers Termites
        Appearance Typically brown and black Translucent or pale yellow
        Nesting habits Eggs are laid in the wood and the larvae that hatch stay within and feed on the wood until they become adults and emerge from the wood
        •  Drywood termites nest in wood structures
        • Subterranean termites nest in soil/mud and tunnel to the feeding site (wood structure)
        Type of holes caused Clean exit holes that look like the wood’s been drilled Wood looks like it has been chewed
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