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Pacific Deathwatch Beetles Infest Structural Wood Which Can Lead To Devastating Structural Damages In Some Cases

Termites are not the only wood-infesting insect pests in the United States, as carpenter ants, carpenter bees, and several beetle species in the country are well known for nesting within the structural wood in homes and buildings. Hemicoelus gibbicollis, is one wood-boring beetle species that is common in the southwest. This species is commonly referred to as the Pacific deathwatch beetle, and they are sometimes referred to as powderpost beetles despite this common name being attached to another wood-boring beetle species. Deathwatch beetles prefer to nest within softwoods, such as fir, or within weak, damp and decaying wood sources, which is why infestations are often found in high-moisture areas around homes, particularly in basements, cellars and crawl spaces. However, infestations can occur in a variety of indoor locations including floors, door frames, window sills, rafters, beams, stair railings and furniture. The damage these beetles inflict to wood can be devastating if infestations are not noticed for a long period of time, as infested structural wood has been known to collapse as a result of being hollowed out by deathwatch beetle larvae.

Once adult deathwatch beetles emerge from pupation during the spring, females place their eggs within narrow cracks and pores on natural and structural wood sources. Once larvae emerge from the eggs, they bore into wood where they excavate long tunnels, eventually causing infested wood to become hollow and in urgent need of replacement. Deathwatch beetles can remain in their larval stage for months or even years depending on environmental conditions, and larvae can also overwinter within structural wood before emerging. Larval feeding within wood produces a sawdust-like material that the larvae tightly pack within their tunnels, sometimes resulting in a blistered appearance on the surface of infested wood. Eventually, pupation takes place within the tunnels, causing newly formed adults to break through the surface of wood in order to fly away. Larvae inhabiting structural wood communicate with each other through tapping sounds which can be heard under some circumstances within infested homes. Centuries ago, many people interpreted this tapping as the ticking sounds made by a clock. This “ticking” indicated that an elderly or sickly person’s death was fast approaching, and this is how the insect pests got their common name.

Have you ever heard sounds produced by any type of insect pest within a home, with the exception of chirping crickets?

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