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Guide to powder post beetles & old house borers in buildings.
This article provides powder post beetle & old house borer insect & rot damage photographs, inspection advice, and lists additional articles that discuss the inspection, detection, prevention, and repair of structural damage from insects (termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powder post beetles, and other wood destroying insects), indoor mold, rot and building leaks or water entry.
Our page top photo shows our client holding a screwdriver that penetrated a powder-post-beetle-damaged beam fully to the hilt of the tool - indicating severe structural damage to a beam damaged by powder post beetles.
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In our powder post beetle photos above, while there was significant beam damage, the infestation did not appear active.
Powder post beetle damaged wood will show multiple tiny holes, about 1/8" in diameter, leaving the outermost surface of the wood otherwise intact. Probing you will find powdery sawdust and damaged wood just below this skin. The older the powder post beetle (or old house borer beetle) damage is, the deeper into the wood the damage will extend.
For this reason, strategic probing is important to assess the depth of damage to the wood and thus to the wood structure. When powder post beetles are active you may see light dusting of fine wood powde around some of these holes as well as on surfaces below.
We look for the presence of fine wood powder around the insect exit holes or on the ground below the damaged infected member as indications of recent insect activity. Below left we are probing to determine the depth of insect damage into the beam; at below right is powder post beetle damage in a hand hewn beam. With the absence of fresh fine sawdust powde around the exit holes in these beams one might infer that the insects were not active at the time of inspection.
Below are two more photographs of old house borer or powder post beetle damage in a floor support beam. We probe the structural member to find the depth of insect damage as a step in deciding if structural repair, reinforcement, or replacement are needed.
Powder post beetle damage is typically treated with a topical insecticide spray.
Watch out: it's often the case that this insect pest can appear dormant for a very long time, years, but activity may renew when conditions such as moisture level or temperature change.
Some pest control operators (PCOs) also spray paint the wood surfaces in order to make it easier to spot a renewal of insect activity in the future.
Details about when, where, how & why to probe wood structural and non-strucural components on buildings are founda
Assessing the extent of structural damage to wood framing members in a conventional building inspection involves the following phases and procedures:
Clearly the ground-off ice pick wood probe (far left) is finding less-severe damage than the "to the hilt" stab of my dad's screwdriver demonstrated by our client (close left).
Watch out: while we advise against unwarranted cosmetic damage at a building interior, strategic probing of wood sills, rim joists, or floor structures (or other wood members) can disclose severe structural damage that was otherwise not evident. At below left, even our pen was able to easily puncture this termite-damaged joist that had been "cosmetically-repaired" using wood putty
Old House Borer Beetle risk from firewood?
Reader question: old house borers, adult beetles & larvae found in firewood stored in garage
We've taken the firewood out of the garage now (where we could hear the larvae feeding) but are wondering if there's a possibility that they've infected the house as we have seen dozens crawling around the garage and have found a couple of adult/baby ones in other rooms of the house.
I've attached a picture of the beetle. Any feedback would be very greatly appreciated. - D.D. 6/4/2014
Indeed the beetle in your photo looks like an adult old house borer beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus) -
IF the firewood were stored for many months against wood framing, indeed that framing could become infected too - you'd expect to see the small borer openings such as those we show in the article above.
If you see such infection (which is unlikely given the history you cite) send me some photos and I can comment further and of course a local pest control operator can apply a topical pesticide.
At above left I include a close-up photo of old house borer beetle exit holes - these are typically around 1/16"+ in diameter.
If the home has an accessible basement or crawl area that's the place to start inspecting with care.
Continue reading at COMPARE TERMITE DAMAGE to POWDER POST BEETLE or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
(May 21, 2011) From Little ol me said:
they love the top plate as well as the bottom plate of a wall. They took out well over 60 feet of each before I found them. I removed all sheetrock in the house, replaced what wood was necessary and treated the wood with Shell Guard RTU made by perma chenk. It was a huge job, and it seemed to last forever. Hope it works.
Thanks for your comment about where powder post beetle damage is most likely to be found in homes - it will help other readers.
We are dedicated to making our information as accurate, complete, useful, and unbiased as possible: we very much welcome critique, questions, or content suggestions for our web articles.
(Nov 3, 2012) mary said:
I purchased a house and knew about termites and there were none, but the main support beam is riddled with those little holes and the beam is soft. How do I go about relacing the beam without taking my house apart. That section of my house ( which is reasonably small ) is sinking. The house will actually shake if you come down the stairs too quick. Any suggestions ?
Rather than risk a dangerous floor collapse you should ask advice from an expert, probably a structural engineer.
(Feb 8, 2014) Can powder lost beetles be treated in the winter with a water based liquid agent used for killing them. said:
Can powder post beetles be treated in the winter(temp's in the teens) with a water based agent used for treating them
(Mar 14, 2014) Pat said:
I purchase a house and found out that it has powder post beetle. I had two soft spots one in the kitchen and bathroom. Both floors have been replaced and the girdle.I would like to know whether or not the floor or house will collapse after having this replacement and having the house treated for powder puff beetle.
Pat you are asking a reasonable question but not one that any building professional with an ounce of sense would attempt to answer when she or he has not a shred of information about the condition of the building. You may need an onsite expert inspection to address the question of whether or not the scope of repair was adequate as well as its execution.
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