Beetle Control: Protect Your Home
Scientific Classification: Coleopteran
As the largest order of insects on the planet, beetles play an important role in sustaining various ecosystems around the world. However, the diverse group of insects can also cause alarm when certain beetles known as occasional invaders enter homes and other indoor areas. Beetles often damage property as well. Wood-boring beetles specifically are estimated to cause millions of dollars in property damage each year by infesting trees or attacking other wooden structures and objects like furniture. Old house borers, powderpost beetles and several others species can also destroy wood structures.
What Do They Look Like?
Size: While beetles vary in size depending on species, the insects generally measure between 1/4 and 3/4 inches in length as adults. Certain species, like the Asian longhorned beetle and the eastern Hercules beetle, can grow up to be even larger. Accidentally introduced to the Mid-Atlantic region as a result of international commerce, Asian longhorned beetles measure up to 1 1/2 inches in size, while eastern Hercules beetles rank as the largest beetle species in the United States and grow as long as 2 inches or more.
Color: Beetles range in color from jet black to light cream. Common beetle species in the Mid-Atlantic area may also be brown, green or yellow. Certain types of beetles feature a distinctive iridescent or metallic quality.
Characteristics: All beetles each possess two pairs of wings. Thick and hardened, the front pair folds over the back pair and the abdomen to form a protective casing akin to a shell. While some beetle species boast flat and elongated bodies, others are more rounded in shape. Certain species are also characterized by a pair of long antennae that, in some cases, more than doubles the length of the body.
With the exceptions of some aquatic environments and polar regions, beetles live in every type of habitat found on the planet. In fact, no other type of known insect resides in the sheer variety of environments that beetles regularly occupy.
What Do They Eat?
Beetles feed on a varied assortment of materials ranging from organic debris and plants to aphids, caterpillars and other invertebrates. The diverse insects are also known to eat fungi, fruit, pollen and the waste of other animals. Specific dietary preferences vary according to species.
Like many other types of insects, beetles develop by undergoing complete metamorphosis from egg to adult. Females typically lay the eggs either in or on an appropriate food source for the larvae to eat after hatching. Wood-boring beetles, for instance, lay eggs in galleries which the pest insects excavate out of trees or wooden objects to enable the newly hatched larvae to derive nourishment from the nutrients contained in the surrounding wood. Within the larval stage of the life cycle, beetles complete multiple phases of development called instars. After the final instar, the larvae pupate before emerging as fully mature adults. The average lifespan of an adult beetle depends on the species but often concludes after just a couple weeks.
- Look for wood-boring beetles within wooden structures and objects, such as bamboo, wooden ornaments and picture frames, wicker furniture, wood pallets, broom handles, stored firewood and walls containing wood framing.
- May notice exit holes in infested wood.
- Look for ground beetles under logs, rocks, pieces of wood or similar debris.
- May notice large numbers of beetles attracted to bright porch lights or other exterior lighting.
Problems Caused by Beetles
Wood-boring beetles have the potential to cause significant amounts of damage to the objects and structures that the insects commonly infest. On a regional scale, the destructive pests are known to generate millions of dollars in losses due to the cost of treating or replacing infested wood. While some types of wood-boring beetles tend to infest trees that are already weakened or dying, other species attack and kill healthy trees within just a few years causing damage that some experts predict will eventually add up to billions of dollars in economic impact. Perhaps the biggest concern with wood-boring beetles is they can infest the framing of homes and jeopardize the structural integrity of wooden buildings. Additionally, certain beetle species cause problems not by attacking wood but by entering homes and producing larvae that feed on and damage various fabrics.
Signs of Infestation
The larvae of wood-boring beetles sometimes emit audible chewing sounds when feeding within the wood of infested structures. Other signs of a wood-boring beetle infestation include the telltale exit holes created when the insects excavate galleries out of wooden material. The size and shape of the opening can actually help identify the specific type of beetle that produced the exit hole and caused the infestation.
For beetles regarded as occasional invaders, the primary sign of an infestation often occurs when large numbers of the congregating pests enter the home and attract the attention of the occupants. While some species merely serve as a harmless annoyance, carpet beetles leave behind evidence of their presence by chewing holes into clothing and other fabrics.
Preventing an infestation of wood-boring beetles may involve the removal of things like dead trees and firewood piles from the yard as the pests often fly inside from outdoor habitats located in close proximity to the home. Because the damaging insects thrive in particularly moist wood, homeowners should fix any plumbing leaks and eliminate the presence of excess moisture in places like the attic, basement, crawlspaces and other locations where the wooden framework of the house remains most susceptible to attack. Reducing moisture levels may help prevent infestations of certain occasional invader beetles as well. Other prevention strategies include tactics like sealing cracks and holes, removing piles of debris from the yard and limiting exterior lighting, which all make the structure less accessible and attractive to occasional invaders.
Tips for Removal from Home
Smaller infestations of wood-boring beetles may be resolved by replacing the infested material with treated wood. Individually infested items such as pieces of furniture may need to undergo fumigation at an offsite location. For some beetles, a vacuum cleaner sometimes proves sufficient in removing the infestation. Insecticide treatments such as residual applications and wood injections may also serve as viable options depending on the specific type of beetle and the other steps being taken to eliminate the pests. Contact a pest control professional for assistance in implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) program designed to eradicate beetle infestations safely and successfully.