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The northeast US is home to several beetle species that are well known for excavating nesting galleries within structural wood. This large group of beetle pests are commonly referred to as wood-boring beetles, and most species see adult females lay eggs on the porous surface of structural wood where larvae emerge and excavate interior tunnels. Wood-boring beetle larvae may excavate interior tunnels in structural wood for a period of months or several years, depending on the species, and most species see larvae consume much of the wood they excavate for sustenance during their development into adults. Once these pests mature into adults, they carve out an exit hole on the surface of wood in order to take flight into the natural environment. In some cases, the winged adult beetles that emerge from infested structural wood components are unable to gain access outdoors, in which case their indoor presence can indicate to homeowners that a damaging infestation has taken place.

Most adult wood-boring beetles are attracted to artificial light sources, such as porch lights, indoor lights and residential and urban streetlights. While the airborne presence of winged wood-boring beetle species around indoor lights may seem like nothing more than a temporary nuisance, finding them within a home often marks the earliest stage of a destructive infestation. Adult wood-boring beetles also congregate around windows and doorways where some species deposit eggs on wet wood along window sills and door frames. Given their concealed habitat within structural wood, wood-boring beetle infestations can be difficult to detect, and most species do not carve exit holes on the surface of infested wood until they emerge to take flight. In some infestation cases, a fine powdery sawdust-like material known as “frass” may be found in a pile below infested structural wood or in cracks. Frass is a mixture of excrement and excavated wood that larvae eject from the wood components that they infest. It is not uncommon for heavily damaged structural wood to develop a blistered and discolored appearance as a result of excavations just below the surface. Due to their excavation and chewing activity, wood-boring beetle larvae may produce audible ticking sounds within infested wood, and deathwatch beetles are particularly apt to produce such sounds.

Have you ever found what you thought was termite-damaged wood only to learn that the insect culprits were actually wood-boring beetle larvae?