Most beetles are bad enough, but when they’re destroying your home, it’s a whole different ballgame. If your house is infested with powderpost beetles, it’s only a matter of time until they turn your wooden posts (and shutters, and walls, and floors) to powder. Using natural remedies to get rid of powderpost beetles, though, can keep your sanity — and your home — intact.
How to Tell if You Have Powderpost Beetles
While termites take first place in their home-destroying abilities, powderpost beetles come in a close second. They are found around the United States and are part of a large family. True powderpost beetles are in the lyctidae family, but the false ones, bostrichidae, can be just as damaging.
- Other sapwood and other softwood
The damage occurs when the beetle is in the larval stage, which can take anywhere from a month-and-a-half to 12 years, with the beetle bulking up by eating your boards. Prime locations for their meals are made in your hardwood floors, interior trim, joists, plates, sills, and sub-flooring. They can also branch into furniture, handles, or ladders, and have been found to compromise the structural strength of their abode.
Look for tiny holes — about the size of a piece of pencil lead. If you see a very fine powder when you jostle or shake the wood, you more than likely have an unwanted houseguest. The adults will leave through the holes, all of which are connected to tunnels created by the larvae. Make regular, yearly inspections of your property.
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Natural Remedies for Powderpost Beetles
Start on the right foot
Responsible management and prevention of powderpost beetles should start at the mill, but since the pests can be picked up along the way, it’s important to inspect wood products before bringing them home. Check your furniture before you take it in the house and fumigate it if it’s showing any signs of infestation. Inspect your firewood as well, and only bring the amount of wood into the house that you need for that day.
Give them the cold shoulder
If your small objects are infested with powderpost beetles, placing the item in the cold is one of the most effective ways to get rid of the pests. Remove it from the warmth and place it in a location that is colder than ten degrees Fahrenheit for three days. To ensure the treatment has been effective, remove the object after three days and put it back in a warm location for at least 48 hours, and then repeat. The drastic temperature change, not the cold, is what will kill beetles and keep them from doing any more damage.
Kill them with a kiln
Follow the proper protocol to kiln-dry your object. This works for small items and large pieces, like barn boards or beams. The consistent heat is enough to kill the powderpost beetle but still isn’t enough to keep them out. Once the piece is dry, especially if it was made from a type of wood that typically doesn’t have much moisture, take the proper steps to seal or paint the wood.
Take away their options
Powderpost beetles love old, dry wood. The closer they are to your house, the greater the chance of them spreading to your home. Take the time to clear your property and nearby areas of dead branches, tree limbs, and wood scraps, where they are more likely to live.
Give them some air
Lower the amount of moisture in the wood. Powderpost beetles can’t survive in wood where the moisture level is less than 13 percent to 20 percent; so if the infested wood is in a crawl space, consider installing a moisture barrier or increasing the ventilation.
Sprinkle some salt
Borate salt is a common treatment for powderpost beetles. It doesn’t kill the beetles living in the wood, and isn’t very efficient at penetrating deep, dry, or thick wood but, when sprinkled on thin wood, you may see a difference.
Replace the wood
If it’s a small area, like molding or paneling, you might find it easiest to just pull off the infested pieces and replace them.
Use essential oils
One 1993 study found that basil, eucalyptus, and tarragon oils killed powderpost beetles within three days (buy it here). Other oils were less effective. Lavender (buy it here) allowed them to live as long as the untreated control group, and in peppermint (buy it here) they actually lived longer than the control group.
The gold standard for killing pests is cedar oil, which is highly effective for killing and repelling many types of insects, including powderpost beetles.
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Finish them off with finish
Unfinished wood attracts powderpost beetles. To keep them away, consider using paint, shellac, or varnish to keep female beetles from laying their eggs on the surface of the item.
I hope you haven’t found the tell-tale powder of these wood-destroying beetles, but if you have, let me know in the comments below what has worked to help treat your wood, and if you liked the list, feel free to share with someone who might need these tricks.