For the past several weeks, the temperatures around the UK have soared. It’s lovely, warm and toasty, but it’s also open season to the common furniture beetle. Something plenty of people are going to find themselves worried about.
It’s not just your timbers around your home that are at risk. All your wood furnishing, including your wooden picture frames can be a breeding ground for the UKs most common furniture beetle.
The adult beetles are three to four millimetres in length. These are the ones you should be worried about and you’ll know you have these if they’ve been flying.
When the temperatures rise, these take flight. Unlike other beetles, this species are highly active flyers in high temperatures.
They are attracted to light so you’ll find them on your window ledges and areas around your windows. They’re also active at night so when you turn the light on, you’ll see them fly around the light in the room, bouncing ferociously off the ceiling and making an almighty noise as they do.
You don’t need to worry so much about the male species of furniture people, but the females, well those are your woods biggest enemy.
10 things to know about the female Common Furniture Beetle:
- They are active flyers in sunny weather
- They are looking for a place to nest their eggs
- Breeding season is April through to the end of August
- They’re more prone to choosing hardwoods (rather than heartwood - sapwood is preferred) for laying their eggs
- Attractive wood for infesting with their offspring is wood with a 28% or higher moisture content (10% is average moisture content for a house in the UK).
- They don’t lay eggs. They lay larva. That’s the woodworm that buries itself in your wood, eats through it to provide the larva enough nutrients to survive for two to five years before they pupate into adult beetles, and then start the cycle again.
- Heartwood timbers like oak and pine contain toxins that’ll kill them when ingested, so those woods are safe from infestations. Sapwood doesn’t contain toxins and are more likely to be infested by woodworm, aka the larva.
- The larva can live inside your wood for years and the only time you’ll know about it is when you see one to two millimetre holes in your wood, which are the exit holes left behind from a larva that’s pupated and come out as an adult beetle.
- As wood dries up, moisture content in the wood does too. As such, not all larva can survive. They can when the conditions of the wood has 16% moisture content. Therefore, the lower your woods moisture content, the harder it is for them to survive due to the lack of nutrition for them to eat.
- Dampness attracts infestations.
That last point about dampness is what you need to control. The damper your wood is, the more attractive it’ll be to these furniture pests. And it’s not just wood they’ll bore through either. The paper that’s made from wood is devoured too. If these pests think they’ll get nutrition from the moisture content in anything, consider it destroyed.
How to identify a woodworm or furniture beetle problem
Often this is obvious when you see the beetles taking flight around your room. Other times, it’s not though.
Look for these signs:
- Dead beetles around your windows and keep an eye on the hatch of your loft door because it’s often the timber in the loft that they’ll crawl out from.
- On any of your wood furniture that’s infected with these creatures, you’ll see a trail of dust left behind. This dust can be a small amount. As woodworm will start from the outer shell of your wood and then chew through it, as they bore down into the wood, there’s a trail of dust left behind. You’ll notice it on your floors, skirting boards, and door frames etc. For your picture frames, you’ll not the see the dust unless it’s behind the frame when you take the frame off the wall to clean it.
- One to two millimetre exit holes on wood are another sign you’ve a problem on your hands. Even if you’ve only seen one beetle flying around, don’t just remove it and be done with it. It came from somewhere. Find out where. Inspect all your wood, not forgetting your frames, coffee tables, parts of your sofa like the feet where you can inspect for small holes, and every piece of wood you have in your home… even the wooden fruit bowl that sits on your coffee table.
Exterminating the Common Furniture Beetle
Depending on the severity of your situation, you may need to call the pros to give your home a complete treatment solution. Wood can be treated with many different woodworm treatments, which will effectively poison the larva as they continually eat the wood to survive.
If your problem is a few flying beetles take advantage when they take a breather. Heat kills them. If you have a steam cleaner, the temperatures are high enough to kill them on direct impact.
For infected wood products like bowls and bookends, or even small enough picture frames, it is possible to stick them in the oven for a half hour so you can practically bake them. According to Matt Green, Rentokil’s resident expert on the Common Furniture Beetle, 54oC for a half hour will kill the larvae inside the wood.
These pests need moisture to survive. Not heat. Take the moisture away and you’re removing the breeding ground environment they need to survive and thrive. Females of the species will always look for the safest place that will give the larva the best chance of survival. That’s the wood with the highest moisture content.
If you need to take back control of your home and stop sharing it with pesky woodworm that’s destroying your furniture, get a dehumidifier.
As ExplainthatStuff.com puts it – “it sucks in air from your room at one end, takes the moisture out of it, and then blows it back out into the room again.”
And voila – with the moisture gone, so too is your problem. That said, depending how long the larva has been breeding for, it may be too little too late.
One thing for sure is you do not want to wait to fix this problem with your wood picture frames. The reason being, when the moisture levels drop and the larva struggles to survive, they will penetrate into what’s inside the frame and begin feasting on that. Suddenly, your airtight picture frame that’s supposed to protect your art and photos for life is now rendered useless.
Dampness is the enemy. That can be rising or penetrating damp, which is a structural problem for your home, and will call for professional assistance. However, dampness can also be caused by condensation, which is a ventilation problem. Drying clothes inside, inefficient ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms are condensation problems you can take care of by reducing the amount of condensation in your home.