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Old House Borer

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Old House Borer

Old house borer belongs to a group called cerambycid beetles, which are also known as long-horned beetles. Most long-horned beetles are wood borers in the larval stage, but only the old house borer is a serious pest in homes.

Old House Borer

Old House Borer

The old house borer is one of the most injurious wood-boring insects inhabiting Connecticut. The name is somewhat misleading since a large number of infestations are noticed in homes just four to seven years after construction. The larva bores through wood and also feeds on it. Tunnels made by the larva weaken structural timbers. The borers feed only in pine, spruce, and other coniferous woods.

An infestation of old house borers is evidenced by the presence of the adults their emergence holes, or by the larvae and larval tunnels in the wood. The black to gray beetles are 5/8 to 1 inch in length and possess long antennae. Fine, gray hairs are present on the thorax with two shiny raised areas on each side. Patches of gray hairs are visible on the wing covers in irregular lateral bands. The pointed abdomen of the females will typically extend beyond the ends of the wing covers. Emergence holes made by the adult beetles are somewhat oval and 1/4 inch in diameter. The cream-colored larvae are up to 1-1/4 inch in length.

Habit:Old house borers infest softwoods, especially pine. They can be found in old houses, as their name suggests, but they are actually more common in new homes.The females lay about fifty eggs in cracks and crevices in wood. The larvae penetrate the wood to feed, but they often stay near the surface. Larvae usually require 2 to 3 years to develop in wood with 15 to 25 percent moisture, but they can take as long as 15 years to develop in very dry wood.Usually, larvae become adults in the spring, but they may not emerge immediately. When they do exit, the adults cut oval holes about 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter. Adults are normally most active in June and July.

Life cycle:The adult beetles emerge mainly during July and August. They mate, then the female deposits her eggs in the natural cracks and crevices of the bark of felled logs and in wood stored in lumberyards. Subsequently, infested timber may be used in newly constructed buildings. In wood, the larval stage may last from three to fifteen years. The average time for the borers to reach maturity in Connecticut (in structures heated year long) appears to be from five to seven years. The majority of borers are secreted in the thicker timbers of a building. Very few ever have been located in wood less than one-inch thick. Nearly all the structural infestations in Connecticut are started by old house borer larvae in some of the original construction timber. Most infestations remain localized. However, where excessive wood moisture is found, such as poorly vented attics and leaky roofs, beetles will flourish, spread to other structural items and cause much damage in a short period of time.

Damage:The old house borer is a common pest of buildings in the eastern United States. It is not as damaging as the termite, but is next in number of infestations in the areas where it is found.This beetle prefers well seasoned coniferous wood (pine, spruce, etc.), and the damage to infested wood can be reduced to frass surrounded by a thin veneer of sound wood. They do not attack hardwoods.Exit holes are 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter.Tunnels are filled with loosely packed frass.When tunnels are near the surface, the wood may have a blistered appearance.Old house borers generally infest wood that is less than 10 years old (despite its name). Wood older than 10 years may be infested if the conditions are right (high moisture, seasoned softwood).

Old House Borer

Old House Borer

Control:There are several factors you should consider before starting control measures for wood-boring beetles. The first is that no control may be necessary. Many homes have some damage from wood-boring beetles. However, in many cases the damage is very minor and old, which means that all the beetles have died. Unless you see beetles or fresh wsood powder around the holes, chemical treatment is not necessary. Fresh wood powder is usually light in color and does not clump. Old wood powder is often yellowed and clumps together.Also, there are many beetles in nature that attack wood but do not cause serious damage or reinfest lumber in homes. It is important to know which beetles you have before you go to the trouble and expense of some of the treatments.

Finally, with the advent of central air conditioning and heating, the potential for widespread damage has decreased. In fact, even with the more serious lyctid and anobiid beetles, if a house has no moisture problems, has a central cooling and heating system, and is not unoccupied for long periods, serious problems are not likely.

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