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How to Tell if Woodworm is Active

Wood Roof Girders With Woodworm

Woodworm is a common problem and one that we come across on a regular basis as part of our woodworm treatment service. We often hear people question whether they need to enlist the help of woodworm specialists, and this is because signs of woodworm may be old and the infestation might have already been absolved.

To the average person, it’s not immediately obvious if there are active woodworm, and this is because it often comes down to the minute details. Knowing how to tell if woodworm is active isn’t the easiest, but there are a few things you can look out for. Here are some of the signs of an active woodworm infestation.

Is There Frass?

The first and most obvious sign of active woodworm is frass. Frass is a fine, dust-like substance that looks a bit like sawdust. Frass is the discarded, chewed timber the adult beetle creates when exiting the wood, it is commonly found in and around exit holes where active infestation has occurred. To determine whether the frass is fresh or old, make sure you dust the area you think has a problem.

Check back every couple of days and look for frass. If you see it after initially wiping the area clean, it’s a good indicator that you have an active woodworm problem. It’s important to know that it’s not harmful and can easily be wiped away.

Tapping the timber will often result in the release of light-coloured frass if woodworm is present.


Are There New Holes?

Holes are the most common sign of woodworm and what most people think of when they think of woodboring bugs, but when it comes to how to tell if woodworm is active – be it in floorboards, furniture or roof joists – holes are not the be-all and end-all of symptoms.

Holes can appear in wood for any number of reasons, and whilst they’re a pretty solid sign that woodworm has been present at some point or another, they’re not an immediate sign that woodworm is still active. The holes could be from a historic infestation.

The way to determine if the holes are new or not is to put a coloured mark on the existing holes with a felt tip. Check back every week or so and see if there are any new holes. If there are new holes, this is a good sign of an active infestation.

Have You Seen Beetles?

Woodworm larva spends years eating their way through the timber, with most emerging after four to five years as beetles. There are different types of woodworm beetles, so it’s important to know what each one looks like. The most common type of beetle in the UK is, as the name suggests, the common furniture beetle, which leaves holes of around 2mm wide. It’s a brown beetle that is roughly 3-4.5mm long.

If you have damp wood, there’s a chance that you’ll have the death watch beetle which is more accustomed to damp wood. You can hear the death watch beetle, so if you notice frass and hear a tapping sound at night, this is a good indication of the death watch beetle. The holes of death watch beetle are generally 3mm in diameter.

If you see beetles flying out of wood, or dead on your windowsill, this is a sign that you have an infestation of woodworm.

Is the Timber Crumbling? 

The final prominent sign of active woodworm is crumbling timber. If you touch the wood and it falls apart, it’s a sign that the timber has been damaged structurally by a woodboring beetle.

What to do if You Have Active Woodworm

If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms and think that you might have an active woodworm infestation, we can help. Whilst there are some remedies you can use for a DIY treatment, depending on the location of the woodworm, it’s best to employ the help of a specialist service such as Garratt’s Damp & Timber.

When misdiagnosed or not treated properly, woodworm can have a potentially devastating effect and – if in roof timbers or floorboards – can cause serious structural damage. It’s rare, but it’s a possibility, so it’s best to enlist the help of a professional service in order to tackle the problem properly the first time around.

We will treat the wood thoroughly to ensure any active woodworm are flushed out and that any fresh eggs on the surface are killed. Depending on the severity of the damage, it may be necessary to replace certain parts of the timber.

Get in Touch

Please contact us to organise a site survey. Our specialist team will come to your property and assess the situation. We will provide you with a no-obligation quote for the work required.

We work across Greater London and have over 18 years of experience, so you’re in safe hands when you choose us for your woodworm treatment. To find out more, please contact us.

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