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Woodworm and Other Wood Boring Insects

The average purchaser of property is concerned about the possible presence of 'woodworm' in timbers. This is the most common woodboring insect to be found in this country, but there are other species which also damage timber. Although worm infestation can have serious consequences for a property, in most circumstances, nowadays, beetle infestation is unlikely to be a serious long-term problem.

A property surveyor will be on the lookout for evidence of insect infestation, particularly when surveying older properties and buildings, where timbers may not have been visible or exposed for many years.

Any visible evidence of infestation is likely to be indicative of a more wide-spread problem, with much of the damage concealed from view below the exposed surface. The insects have a life cycle, in which the adult female beetle lays eggs which hatch into small larvae; the grubs then burrow through the timber, consuming it as they go, for perhaps several years; and then emerge as adults to lay more eggs and repeat the process. Most of the damage to the timber has therefore been caused before the beetle emerges, leaving its tell-tale flight hole which is usually accompanied by a small pile of frass (fine dust). Flight holes of the woodworm are small, usually about 1mm across and readily identifiable. Some other insects leave larger flight holes.

It is important to try and detect trouble at an early stage. Evidence is often found in cellars, floorboards, roof timbers, cupboards and under the stairs. Central heating helps to reduce the incidence of worm and beetle infestation, but sub-floor areas and roof voids are still largely vulnerable areas.

When evidence of an attack is discovered, early treatment is necessary to minimise the damage and expense. Such treatments are normally effective and long-lasting and a reputable specialist contractor which is a member of a trade association such as the British Wood-Preserving and Damp-Proofing Association will usually provide a guarantee against future infestation.

Treatment using water-based solvents can often be completed within a day or so.