Monday, October 20, 2014

You may be living with a Death-Watch Beetle

It’s like an Edgar Allan Poe’s story of death tapping on “a night dark and dreary”, but in this case it is not a raven.
Dr Abe V Rotor
It is the death-watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) that is alluded to death. It is an insect with a scary habit all right. The name was derived from the tapping sound it produces, which is frequently heard during mating period, usually in April or May.
Death-watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum),
approximately 20 x magnification.
The beetle simply jerks its body forward in rapid succession, and strikes each time with the lower front part of its head against the surface on which it happens to be standing. It gives eight taps in slightly less than a second; and almost before it stops another beetle of its kind that is within hearing distance will respond by tapping back in the same quick manner. In woodwork and furniture that have been attacked by the death-watch Beetle, the worm holes are large and distinguished by the presence of frass and powder around the openings.

The beetles are from one-fourth to one-third of an inch in length, dark brown in color, spotted and banded irregularly with thick patches of short yellow gray hairs. Pairing takes place after the beetles have made their exit from the wood, and they die a few weeks later, the female in the meantime having laid some 70 eggs. The tapping is of the nature a sexual call, and may be repeated over and over for quite a long time. Grating sound may also be heard as the larvae gnaw on wood inside its tunnel. It takes three years to complete the insect’s life cycle.

A more familiar beetle, Anobium punctatum, is called powder post or furniture beetle, named after the dust it scatters at the mouth of its tunnel on furniture.

Well, it's just the death-watch beetle or the powder post beetle; there's nothing to fear about.
But don't wait until your furniture falls apart, or your house falls down. ~

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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