How to Identify Powderpost Beetles in Your Crawl Space

identify powderpost beetles

If you have not read any of my other blogs, I am constantly stressing the importance of regularly checking your crawlspace for problems. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is better (and cheaper) than a pound of cure. Part of that is knowing how to identify powderpost beetles in your home.

A few months ago I taught you how to look for termites in crawl space. Termites are only one of the many issues that your crawl space can suffer. Powderpost beetle infestation is another.

There are two tell tale signs for a powder post beetle infestation.

  1. Infested wood will have many small holes (1/16″ – 1/8″) on the wood surface. These tiny holes are from adult powderpost beetles exiting the surface of the wood. They are often referred to as exit holes, or emergence holes.
  2. The second sign is frass. Frass is the wood dust and waste from the beetle as it bores through the wood. It is a fine powder that is find either around the exit holes, or under the piece of the wood the beetles were in. For example small piles of yellow powdery dust under a joist, or beam indicates powder post beetle activity.

I recommend inspecting your crawl space monthly for defects. If you see any of the signs above, you probably have, or have add powderpost beetles in your crawl space.

Video of Powderpost Beetles in Crawl Space

Are there Powderpost Beetles in Virginia?

Powderpost beetles are a common pest and can be found anywhere in the united states. Significant infestations are more likely in the Southeast (Virginia) where climate such as humidity is favorable. Here in Richmond, we have lots of damp crawl spaces that are perfect powderpost beetles.

Can Powderpost Beetles Cause Structural Damage?

There are actually three major types of powderpost beetles.

  1. Lyctid beetles – These beetles prefer hardwood and do not require high moisture content in the wood. Most of the wood in our homes is pine – softwood. You are more likely to observe lyctid beetles in hardwood floors, wood paneling, hardwood furniture, or other hard wood products.
    1. If you do find small exit holes in your furniture, it is likely the larvae of these beetles was already in the furniture when you bought it. It can take a year to two years for powder post beetle larvae to mature into adult beetles and emerge from the furniture.
  2. Bostricid Beetles– these are similar to the lyctid beetles. They prefer hardwoods and are more a furniture beetle than a structural wood beetle. They don’t reinfest your furniture once they emerge, but they can cause a serious amount of damage based on the eggs that can be present in the wood.
  3. Anobiid Beetles – anobiid powderpost beetles are the type you are most likely to find in your crawl space. They do infest softwood and they can cause serious problems with the wood of your home.

How Do Anobiid Beetles Damage Your Home?

First, female powderpost beetles lay eggs on the surface of wood, or just below the surface of unfinished wood. Once the larvae hatch they begin to their development process. Unlike other powderpost beetles, anobiid beetles can digest the cellulose in wood. The larvae feed on a piece of wood and tunnel through it until they are adult powder post beetles.

The larval stage is the stage when the most extensive damage occurs.

At adulthood they bore through the surface of the wood. The males and females mate, and the females lay eggs again. Sometimes they will they will lay their eggs in existing exit holes . The process begins again.

How Do You Know if You Have an Active Infestation?

It is actually fairly simple to determine if you have an active infestation. Careful observation of the suspected area is all you need.

  1. Look at the holes. If the holes look fresh such as a new looking yellow ring, in older faded wood, it is most likely an active infestation.
  2. Look at the frass. Remember the frass is essentially wood dust. Is it clean without a lot of dust and debris in it? It is probably active.

How to Prevent Anobiid Beetle Infestation?

While it’s not always possible to prevent an infestation, there are steps we can take to greatly reduce the chance of an infestation.

  1. Make sure you know how to identify powderpost beetles. You can always refer back to this blog.
  2. Keep your crawl space dry. Anobiid beetles need moisture. Keep your crawl space vents closed. Make sure your vapor barrier is sealed and in good condition. If those don’t help to keep the moisture level down, then you will need to encapsulate your crawl space to prevent prime environmental conditions for beetles (and other pests)
  3. Do not store firewood near your home. Anobiid beetles can be found in dead wood
  4. Inspect any antique furniture before bringing it home.

The bottom line

Anobiid beetles are wood-boring beetles that feed of the structural timbers in our homes. Knowing how to identify powderpost beetle activity is a a nice skill to add to your tool belt. You should be performing regular inspections of your crawl space to determine if you have issues. If you think have an active infestation, or you’re not sure, call a professional pest control expert.