How to Identify the Signs of Woodworm

The signs of woodworm aren't easy to detect even though this pest might live inside the wood for many years. When you're finally able to verify their existence, it's most likely because the structure is already seriously damaged.
How to Identify the Signs of Woodworm

Last update: 17 September, 2020

It’s important to learn to recognize the signs of woodworm because this pest can do considerable damage. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to do so, because the holes and tunnels created by the larvae aren’t visible until after the damage is already done.

That’s why you must take action to prevent and detect it as soon as possible. In today’s article, we’ll tell you more about this pest and how to detect it early.

The signs of woodworm

Woodworm is the name given to the larvae of various species of beetles especially known for gnawing, drilling, and deteriorating wood. In fact, these larvae are xylophagous — they feed on wood.

When feeding, these bugs gnaw on the wood and create tunnels inside of it, seriously damaging its structure. Thus, you must be on the lookout for these creatures to try to keep them from making themselves at home in your furniture.

The types of wood where you might find signs of woodworm

A table set.
Woodworm is generally associated with wood handled by humans. This is not only because its temperatures are more pleasant, but because its humidity is also lower.

Woodworm is a bug that likes to live around humans. That is, it usually appears in human-made wooden structures, so they don’t really have an extensive natural habitat.

In fact, woodworms prefer slightly humid woods, in places far from excessive cold and heat and also from water. For this reason, it’s really strange to find it in live trees or in forests.

Thus, a woodworm pest is more likely to occur:

  • In wooden furniture and structures, mainly in older ones
  • Where there’s a temperature of approximately 68-76ºF
  • In more susceptible woods such as beech, maple, and chestnut

Signs of woodworm

Woodworms aren’t easily detectable in the early stages. This is because their holes and tunnels barely reach 3/16 inch in diameter. However, they progressively get bigger and can reach up to about 1/2 inch.

Also, the characteristic noise these insects make when chewing is almost imperceptible by the human ear. Thus, this pest is usually only detectable by the dust it creates when it makes its characteristic holes, mainly when these are already visible. Unfortunately, the woodworm is quite widespread when you’re able to see these signs.

It may sound unbelievable, but woodworms actually colonize the wood and deteriorate it when they’re still in the larval stage. They feed on the wood for years and then undergo a process of metamorphosis to become flying beetles. These then move outside and live there for a few days.

They only live long enough to lay their eggs in other yummy pieces of wood. Then, they die.

How to find out if the pest is still alive

A wall with signs of wormwood.
After a woodworm infestation, holes and sawdust appear next to the wood.

As we explained above, to detect a woodworm pest you must take into account the existence of:

However, the mere presence of these doesn’t mean the woodworms are still inside. Indeed, they might be signs of an old infestation and the bugs are no longer there. The larvae can live in the wood and feed on it for years. So, when you notice there are sawdust and holes, keep the following into account:

  • When the color of the sawdust is white, it means the infestation is recent and there may still be larvae inside. On the contrary, the pest may already be gone if the dust is brown.
  • Let’s remember the larva undergoes a process of metamorphosis to become a flying beetle that’ll subsequently go outside. So if the holes are large, this may indicate the bugs have already come out and no longer in the wood.
  • Obviously, being able to hear the characteristic sound these insects make when they chew on the wood is an indication they’re still inside it.

How to treat a woodworm infestation

There are several methods to get rid of woodworms:

  • These larvae cannot stand the cold, so you can store any infested objects in cold rooms for a while to eradicate them. However, this is a method to be applied professionally as the cold temperature will badly impact the wood.
  • Some restaurateurs use cameras to locate the bugs and then apply gas to them. Also, there are some professional eradication methods such as the application of heat or oxygen deprivation.
  • Chemical treatments involve the application of gels and injections of specific chemical products that can eliminate a plague in just a few days.

Similarly, there are home remedies against woodworm that are sometimes effective:

  • You can apply the heat of a hand dryer to prevent humidity to furniture and small-ish objects. Then, you can apply an insecticide against woodworm and wrap it in plastic until the pest is toast.
  • These bugs don’t like the heat but, as we said above, they don’t like the cold, either. Thus, you could try to place your furniture outside the house for a few days in the winter and wait for the temperature to kill them.

How to prevent woodworm infestations

A person wiping a table.
Varnishing wood is one of the most widely used techniques with which to prevent the appearance of woodworms.

It’s important to take the following into account when trying to prevent the appearance of woodworm.

The accumulation of moisture in the wood makes it softer and, therefore, more palatable for woodworm.

Thus, even though this remedy won’t entirely keep woodworms from penetrating, a thick coat of varnish is definitely a safety barrier against this pest. In fact, there are varnishes on the market for this specific purpose.

Finally, there’s nothing better than doping regular checkups on your furniture and wooden structures to detect the presence of this pest as soon as possible.

As we explained above, you could definitely detect any woodworm tracks but it might be too late because the pest may have already caused serious damage to a given structure. As you can imagine, it’s easier to prevent it.

Don’t hesitate to hire a professional to do so.

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  • Zahradník, J., 1990. Guía de los Coleópteros de España y de Europa. Omega, Barcelona
  • Hickin, N.E. (1963), The woodworm problem.
  • D. B. Pinniger, R.E. Child (19996), “Woodworm: A necessary case for tratment? New techniques for the detection and control of furniture beetle”, Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Urban Pests.