Are Death Watch Beetles Deadly?

Despite their ominous name, death watch beetles aren’t deadly. However, they’re wood-boring insects whose grubs love to eat hardwood such as oak, meaning they can cause a lot of damage.

Why are They Called Death Watch Beetles?

So if they aren’t deadly, where does the creepy name come from? Well they were once considered to be a bad omen and a sign that someone in the household was about to die. The tapping sound the beetles make when they mate mimics the ticking of a clock. People took this as a sign that someone’s life was literally ticking away.

What Do They Look Like?

Death watch beetles are mottled grey/brown in colour and grow to about 8mm in length. They have cylinder-shaped bodies covered in tiny hairs.

The Lifecycle of the Death Watch Beetle

The tapping sound we referred to earlier is a key part of the death watch beetle mating ritual. The male beetle taps his head against wood and a nearby female responds. They both keep tapping until they find each other. Once mating has taken place, the female lays between 40 and 80 eggs in crevices or holes in wood. Once the eggs hatch, larvae emerge and live inside of wood for as long as 10 years. After that, they pupate for a month before transforming into adults. Adult beetles only lives for a month or two.

Why Are They a Problem?

While you can be reassured that they aren’t a danger to people, death watch beetles can cause huge amounts of damage to wooden structures. Older hardwoods like oak or elm are particularly vulnerable to destruction and this is why historic buildings are often vulnerable to infestation. Beetle larvae tunnel through wooden beams, furniture, and floors, leaving visible holes in the wood. This tunnelling can severely weaken the wood.

How to Get Rid of Death Watch Beetles

Can I Get Rid of Them Myself?

If there’s a fairly isolated problem in the odd piece of furniture, using a woodworm killer might be enough to treat the problem.

However, if there’s evidence of activity and damage in structural timbers, death watch beetles are much harder to deal with. In this case, we’d always recommend calling in professional pest control. Most treatment options on the market won’t be adequate to treat an infestation that’s gone this far. A professional technician will have access to superior products as well as the expertise to fully treat the problem. Extra care and specialist training is always needed when you’re dealing with older listed buildings or antique furniture.

Plus, before you even think about treatment, you have to be able to identify that it’s actually the death watch beetle that’s causing the issue. To successfully treat an infestation, you first have to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Our technicians will also be able to determine both the size of the infestation and what stage of their lifecycle the beetles are at.

Protecting the integrity of building structures and priceless furniture is not a job that should be taken lightly. This is specialist work and with jobs like this, you should always bring in the professionals.

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