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Powder Post Beetles

The term powder post beetle can describe any of hundreds of species of small beetles. These beetles tunnel through wood as larvae, eating and growing until they are fully grown. At that point the adult beetle emerges from the wood, leaving a fine wood powder behind: this is how they got their name. There are four main families of powder post beetles: anobiid, lyctid, false powder post beetles (bostrichids) and cerambycide.

Each variety has some unique characteristic; however the differences can be very subtle. It may be difficult to see the actually beetles infesting your wood as they are most active at night and have relatively short adult life spans, which is when they are outside of the wood. The big clues that powder post beetles have infested wood are the tiny exit holes and fine powder; the holes are roughly the size of a pen tip. Infestations usually happen in wood that is no older than five years. Tropical hardwoods are very susceptible because of poor drying and storage practices.

Physical Characteristics
Powder post beetles of the Lyctid variety are usually 2-3 millimeters long. Their bodies have a flattened looking shape, and their head is visible from above. Colouring on this variety of powder post beetle can range from reddish-brown to black. False powder post beetles (Bostrichids) look similar to Lyctids; their colouring is the same however they are larger than Lyctids ranging from 6-10 millimetres in length. From above, a false powder post beetle’s head is not visible. Species like the House Long Horn beetles from the Cerambycide family are a longer species, ranging from 3-25 millimeters as larvae. They have large antennae that protrude from the top of their heads, giving them the name "long-horn". The least common family is Annobid. The Death Watch beetle from that family, named for the clock like sound it makes, has gray and brown colouring ranging from 3 to 6 millimeters.

Powder post beetles always live in wood; moist and unfinished woods are usually more susceptible to an infestation. Powder post beetles of the Anobiid variety will infest both soft and hard woods, so they could be found in structural components of a home such as rafters, beams and studs or in other areas like moulding, furniture and door or window frames which are usually hard woods. Cerambycide, or long horn beetles attack softwoods, and can cause extensive damage because of their larger size. False powder post beetles (bostrichids) and the lyctid variety attack hard woods. They are commonly found in woods such as oak, ash, walnut and hickory.

Life Cycle
Powder post beetles hatch from eggs within six to ten days after they are laid. Once they have hatched the beetles are in the larvae stage of their life. During this stage the larvae make narrow tunnels in the wood as they feed on it, leaving behind a powder resembling fine sawdust. Of all the different varieties, Annobid is the only kind of power post beetle that can digest cellulose. The larvae will remain inside the wood tunneling, feeding and growing from anywhere between one and ten years. Once the beetle is fully grown it will emerge through a small hole in the wood about the size of a toothpick or pen tip. This usually happens between April and July; by this point the beetle has reached its adult stage. Females will then find a male to mate with, and then lay her eggs. Powder post beetles will re-infest the same wood year after year in all varieties except the false powder post beetles. A female can lay 20 to 60 eggs or numbers up to 200 across all the varieties. Powder post beetles have relatively short adult life spans and are mostly active at night.

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