Southern Timber & Damp
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Property care specialists

Timber Treatment Specialists

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Timber Treatment

There are a number of Category 'A' Wood Boring Beetles in the UK but in the main, the list can be whittled down to two main beetles. The Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium Punctatum) and The Death Watch Beetle (Xestobium Rufovillsum). The Common Furniture Beetle is widespread throughout the UK but the major activity of The Death Watch Beetle is confined to the Southern parts of the country.

Common Furniture Beetle

The Common Furniture beetle can affect timber anywhere but the beetle usually attacks Softwood Species and an ideal habitat will likely have a little moisture in the timber. The adult beetle lays its eggs in crevices in the timber and between the timber joists and the larvae hatch out from the egg. The new larvae bores its way up and down the timber which creates bore dust (Frass) and they digest the starch in the timber and convert the starch into sugar. The activity of the beetle is confined in the main to the Sapwood of the timber.

The period of larvae development prior to pupation and the metamorphosis into the adult beetle can take up to 5 years. Most larvae however complete their life cycle every 12 months and as the temperature warms towards the Summer months (April through June) the larvae bore their way to just below the surface of the timber and create a chamber within which the larvae changes into the adult winged beetle. The emerging adult then eats its way out of the timber to leave a round to oval shaped hole. The flight hole is 2-3mm wide with sharp clean edges. The frass created from the boring of the hole and the tunnel will spill out; this will be very obvious when the flight hole is on the underside of the timber.

The adult beetle will crawl or fly towards the light or a white coloured surface in order to seek a mate. Eggs will then be laid and the life cycle of the beetle starts again. Successive life cycles can if not interrupted by appropriate treatments cause extensive damage. If left unabated, the damage can cause complete collapse of the timber.

Death Watch Beetle

The Death Watch Beetle is one of the most disruptive Beetles in the UK. The activity of the beetle is mainly confined to the South of the country but if an infestation is left unchecked, the activity of the beetle can cause massive damage to structural timber components. The construction of so many older properties in the South of England is an early form of Timber Frame Housing (a Kent cottage with Clap/Weather Boards is a typical example) and the Hardwood structure (mainly Oak and Ash) of such a construction provides an ideal habitat. Moisture and Fungal Decay provide the initial environment to attract the beetle in the first place but once in residence, the beetle can progressively eat its way through the timbers of a dwelling.

The life cycle of the Death Watch Beetle is similar to the life cycle of the Common Furniture Beetle as illustrated above. The beetle will mainly confine its activities to Hardwood species but if food is scarce, the beetle will turn its attentions to surrounding Softwood species. The Death Watch Beetle is the only Wood Boring Beetle to attack the 'heartwood' of Hardwood species of timber and it is the 'heartwood' which is the very strength of any Hardwood component. Furthermore, the Death Watch Beetle larva has a habit and tendency to eat and hollow out chambers within the timber and these chambers are beyond the field of the naked eye to further undermine the strength and integrity of a timber section.

There can be a characteristic and audible 'tapping' of the beetle during the flight season which can be heard from time to time during the quieter times of the night. In the olden days this 'tapping' was said to foretell a death in the household - hence the expression 'The Death Knoll'. It is suffice as to say that this 'tapping' is the male Death Watch Beetle rubbing his wings together to attract a mate. The larva of the Death Watch Beetle can live within the timber prior to pupating beyond the field of the naked eye for a period of up to 15 years.


Treatment is via low toxic chemicals which are deposited on the surfaces of the timber. In the case of the Common Furniture Beetle, it is a straight forward spray treatment with Permethrin but Death Watch Beetle treatments are more labour intensive and costly. The Death Watch Beetle requires a surface treatment of Boron but discretion is exercised to drill into the timber in areas which display heavy activity of the Beetle and to inject a Boron Paste.

Death Watch beetle treatments require that all Hardwood timbers throughout a dwelling have an individual inspection. Areas which display a preponderance of flight holes, extensive Rot or Fungal Decay and any timber with a Moisture Content in excess of 20% Moisture will be a candidate for further treatment and special attention.

The basic principal of the Woodworm Treatments is that the insecticides form a toxic barrier to the surface of the timber which will be ingested by the emerging adult. This toxic insecticide enters the larva to form a stomach poison to effectively kill the insect. The hormone properties of the insecticide means that the the treatment is passed from beetle to beetle to penetrate deep into the community and to provide the ultimate solution. Thus the control over the continuous spread of the treatment is immediate and the ultimate.

The Guarantee where issued takes effect.


Treatment is by various methods which include the use of Permethrin, Boron and Hormonal Retardants.

Inspections can never cover all timbers in a building. The best that can be done is to confine an inspection to accessible timbers and in particular to timber floors around the bottom edge of lavatory bowls, under baths, in airing cupboards, under-stair cupboards, loft timbers around the hatch frame, ridge boards, rafters, joists in sub-floor areas and especially where air bricks are blocked.

Carpets must be removed where necessary in order to obtain access to the sub-floor areas.

Infestations by House Longhorn Beetle, Bark Borer Beetle and Weevil are not covered here but the treatment of all Category 'A' and 'B' Wood Boring Beetles in the UK are similar.

Floorboards are lifted as required in order to obtain access to the joists and the underside of floorboards.

The structural integrity of timber cannot be restored by Woodworm Treatments. The soundness of timber can be enhanced by some treatments (in particular Boron Treatment) and we will advise where necessary if it is considered that further treatment or timber repairs are necessary.

Health and Safety advice will be provided prior to treatment.

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