Woodworm is the generic name given to the wood destroying larval stage of the life cycle of a beetle. In most cases, beetles will eat the nutritionally rich sapwood and in some cases, if decay has set in, then some beetles may consume the heartwood.

The most common wood destroying beetle in the UK not associated with rot is Anobium punctatum. Also called the Common Furniture Beetle, it can cause significant damage to softwood and European hardwoods. The most common beetle associated with rotted timber is the Wood Boring Weevil (Pentarthrum huttoni and Euophyrum confine).

“A number of insects, mainly beetles, are able to use wood as a food source and some of them can cause serious damage to building timbers. These insects all have fairly similar life cycles, although there are variations in the length of each stage in the life cycle, the type of wood attacked, and the extent and type of damage caused.”

A F Bravery, R W Berry, J K Carey, and D E Cooper – Recognising wood rot and insect damage in buildings

These stages include:




Larvae are often laid in the crevices wood or in the grain of the timber.



For most species this is the wood destroying phase, where most larva will consume the sap wood of the timber or where some larva will eat through the decaying timber. Usually larva lives for around 1-5 years. However, in ideal conditions some Deathwatch beetles have reached ages up to 10.


Or Chrysalis stage is where the larva starts the metamorphic phase in becoming an adult beetle. This stage usually lasts around 6 weeks.


Adults only on average live for around 2-3 weeks often flying or walking to find another mate.

One beetle that has come to be quite prolific due to the extent of its damage and range, is the Deathwatch Beetle Xestobium rufovillosum. This beetle normally attacks the sapwood and heart wood of partially decaying hardwoods. However, more closely related to oak. It has been known to attack adjoining timbers not of the same type.

The death-watch larva in recent years has been observed being able to complete their lifecycle without ever leaving the timber and not require the quite the decay most thought.

Another type of beetle that causes a significant amount of damage is the House Longhorn Beetle Hylotrupes bajules. This principally attacks softwoods roof trusses and can hollow out a timber leaving a sound skin of timber.  This beetle was originally called the ‘Camberley Beetle’ and was thought to have originated from a piece of imported furniture brought back from the House Longhorn’s native country. It is commonly found around the Surrey area and has been reported to move further south, potentially following the warmer climate.

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