How to Get Rid of Powderpost Beetles

Powderpost beetles are a type of wood boring insect that can cause major damage to wood structures and furniture. Getting rid of these pests and preventing future infestations requires diligence and persistence. This comprehensive guide will provide information on identifying powderpost beetles, understanding their life cycle, inspecting for signs of infestation, and utilizing both non-chemical and chemical treatment methods for effective control and prevention.

Identifying Powderpost Beetles

Powderpost beetles belong to several species of wood boring insects in the families Lyctinae, Bostrichidae, and Anobiidae. The most common powderpost beetles found in homes are in the Lyctinae family.

There are a few key identifying traits of powderpost beetles:

  • They produce a very fine, powdery frass that resembles sawdust or flour. This frass is created as the larvae bore into and feed on wood.
  • Adults are small beetles ranging from 1/16 to 3/8 inches long. They can be reddish-brown, black, or tan.
  • Larvae are white, C-shaped grubs with brown heads. They can grow up to 1/2 inch long.
  • Exit holes in damaged wood are very small, about the size of a pinhead. Fresh holes may have frass around the openings.

Carefully examining wood for these signs of infestation is the best way to identify if powderpost beetles are present.

Understanding the Powderpost Beetle Life Cycle

Powderpost beetles go through a four stage life cycle – egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Understanding this life cycle helps reveal when and where these pests can be controlled.

  • Egg: Female adult beetles lay tiny, spherical eggs in pores, cracks, and crevices of wood. A single female can lay up to 75 eggs at a time.
  • Larvae: After hatching, larvae immediately bore into the wood, feeding on starch content. Larval development takes 6 to 12 weeks. Larvae cause the most destruction, creating meandering tunnels packed with frass.
  • Pupa: Larvae create cells and pupate for several weeks before emerging.
  • Adult: Adults live 2 to 4 weeks. They mate and females lay eggs to repeat the cycle. Adults do not eat wood, but can further damage it by boring exit holes.

The life cycle lasts about 1 year, sometimes longer if larvae go dormant. Controlling larvae is key as they cause nearly 90% of the destruction. Stopping adults from laying eggs also reduces future generations.

Inspecting for Signs of Infestation

Close inspection around wood structures reveals signs of powderpost beetles if an infestation is present:

Look For:

  • Holes: Tiny, pinhead sized exit holes with powdery frass around them. Larger holes may indicate old damage.
  • Frass: Fine powder or flour-like frass near holes or joints. May fall out if wood is tapped.
  • Hollow Areas: Damaged wood can sound hollow when tapped. Tunnels may be detected inside.
  • Shed Skins: C-shaped larvae skins visible in holes or protruding from wood.
  • Live Bugs: Live larvae in tunnels or adults near exit holes. Usually secretive.

Listen For:

  • Crunching Sounds: Chewing or tapping noises coming from inside infested wood.
  • Tapping Response: If tapping on wood results in tapping sounds from larvae inside.

Thoroughly inspect furniture, flooring, beams, rafters, trim, and other wood items. Pay closest attention near joints, cracks, or edges of wood pieces. Look for frass or holes. Disassembly may be required to fully inspect hidden areas. If live larvae, pupae, or adults are found, an active infestation is occurring.

Non-Chemical Treatment and Prevention

Utilizing non-chemical methods can help control powderpost beetles, prevent future infestations, and limit damage to wood structures and furniture without the use of insecticides.

Discard Infested Items

Disposing of heavily infested wood items or furniture prevents further spread. Severely damaged pieces with active beetles are unlikely to be salvaged.

What to Discard:

  • Firewood with live larvae or holes/frass
  • Furniture with major holes/tunnels and live bugs
  • Wood debris, branches, or logs harboring beetles

How to Discard:

  • Break items into smaller pieces so beetles cannot emerge
  • Burning infested firewood is effective if permitted
  • Landfill waste properly to contain spread

Discarding smaller infested items is preferable to risking a larger scale infestation in a home’s structure.

Heat Treatment

Exposing infested wood to temperatures between 120°F – 140°F can kill all life stages of powderpost beetles.


  • Kilns
  • Heat chambers
  • Clothes dryer on high heat
  • Heating infested building areas

Use a meat thermometer to ensure wood reaches an internal temperature between 120°F – 140°F for at least 30 minutes. Larger wood items may require several hours.

This method also prevents future infestations but does not repair damage. Not suitable for all antiques or valuable furniture.

Cold Treatment

Extreme cold can be an effective powderpost beetle control. Winter temperatures below 20°F kill larvae and eggs inside wood.


  • Placing small wood items in a freezer for 4+ days.
  • Storing infested wood outdoors through winter.

Ensure the entire wood item reaches temperatures below 20°F for at least 4 consecutive days. Repeat as needed. This does not kill adults or prevent future infestations.

Removing Egg Sites

Since female beetles prefer laying eggs in cracks, crevices, and blemished areas, sealing or removing these sites can prevent future generations.


  • Caulking cracks and crevices in wood surfaces.
  • Smoothing out rough wood surfaces.
  • Applying polyurethane or paint over unfinished wood.
  • Replacing infested wood with new, unfinished solid wood, when possible.

Eliminating egg laying sites forces females to look elsewhere to lay eggs. This limits potential damage.

Isolating Infested Items

Isolating heavily infested wood helps restrict powderpost beetles from spreading while undergoing treatment.

How to Isolate:

  • Place items in thick plastic sheeting or bags.
  • Use tape to seal all edges, seams, or openings.
  • Store items outdoors or in an unused building away from other wood.
  • Keep isolated until all beetle activity has ceased.

Proper isolation prevents adults from emerging and limits further infestation.

Chemical Control Options

When dealing with major infestations, using certain chemical insecticides may be the most effective option for eliminating powderpost beetles. Always carefully read and follow all product label safety directions.

Surface Sprays

Insecticide sprays created for wood borers can kill adults and freshly hatched larvae.

Application Tips:

  • Use sprays containing bifenthrin, permethrin, deltamethrin, or cypermethrin.
  • Spray unfinished wood surfaces thoroughly, especially in cracks and crevices.
  • Allow surfaces to dry completely before use.
  • Reapply every 2-4 weeks as needed.

Surface spraying is often inadequate for heavily infested areas where larvae are embedded deep within wood. It is more effective for prevention.


Fumigating with gas penetrates deep into wood to kill larvae and eggs. Highly effective for heavy infestations.

Methods Include:

  • Tenting And Fumigating Entire Structure: For widespread infestation inside a home. Usually done by professionals using toxic gases under a sealed tent. Requires temporarily vacating the building.
  • Spot Fumigation Of Individual Items: Using fumigants formulated for contained spaces. Done professionally or in sealed fumigation chambers.
  • Sulfuryl Fluoride: A toxic gas often used by professionals to treat entire homes. Requires training and safety equipment to apply. Eliminates all life stages.

Fumigation success depends on proper containment, correct dosing, and exposure duration. Requires extensive safety precautions.

Insecticide Sprays

Spraying liquid insecticides directly into beetle holes or galleries kills larvae inside infested wood.

Application Tips:

  • Use small nozzle or hypodermic needles for injecting liquid insecticides into tunnels.
  • Allow time for penetration. Plug holes with putty after treatment.
  • Use borate solutions for deeper penetration into wood for effective control.
  • Repeat treatments may be needed.

When used properly, insecticide sprays provide thorough treatment targeting larvae inside wood.

Preventative Shellac Sealants

Applying a thin coat of shellac sealant containing borates to unfinished wood surfaces can prevent future powderpost beetle infestations.

How It Works:

  • The shellac penetrates wood pores to repel egg-laying adults.
  • Contains borates that insects cannot tolerate if they do bore in.
  • Also works as a primer before painting or staining.

Routine reapplication provides ongoing prevention and protects uninfested wood. Not a stand-alone treatment solution for active infestations which require other methods.

DIY Treatment for Minor Infestations

For minor powderpost beetle infestations limited to a small area or non-structural wood item, there are some DIY methods that can be utilized:

Freezing Small Items

Placing infested items measuring less than 3 inches thick into a freezer for at least 4 days kills eggs, larvae, and adults through extended exposure to temperatures below 20°F.


  • First seal item in plastic bags.
  • Place in freezer where temperature remains steady below 20°F.
  • Leave sealed items in freezer for a minimum of 4 consecutive days.

Insecticide Dusts

Borate-based dusts blown into beetle holes and tunnels kills larvae on contact while also preventing future infestations.

Application Tips:

  • Use a duster to apply a light coating of dust into holes and over exposed wood surfaces.
  • Repeat every few weeks as needed.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and wear appropriate respiratory protection.
  • Focus application where frass is visible.

Dusts provide a simple, effective DIY solution for controlling a minor isolated infestation not requiring extensive fumigation or demolition.

Disposal and Replacement

For a small infested wood item, the simplest solution is to properly dispose of it and replace with new wood.


  • Break, shred, or burn the infested wood so no beetles can emerge.
  • Purchase new, untreated solid wood.
  • Stain, paint, or seal the replaced wood to prevent future infestation.

Professional Treatment

For severe powderpost beetle infestations inside the structure of a home, or for highly valuable antique furniture, professional pest control treatment is strongly recommended.

Why Hire A Professional:

  • Have expertise in locating hidden infestations.
  • Access to specialized monitoring tools and powerful insecticides.
  • Ability to thoroughly treat entire wood framework of buildings.
  • Can perform fumigation and intensive treatments safely and effectively.
  • Help prevent the need for extensive repairs or structure replacement.

Although costs are higher, the results provided by trained professionals are superior for advanced infestations. They also have specialized safety training and equipment.

Preventing Infestations in Homes

Powderpost beetles can be prevented from ever becoming a problem in the first place by following these key tips:

Inspect Firewood Before Bringing Indoors

Look for small holes or fine powder before carrying firewood inside. Never store firewood with signs of beetles indoors.

Isolate and Treat Infested Items

If early signs of beetles are spotted in a wood item, isolate and treat the item immediately before bugs spread further in the home.

Eliminate Moisture

Keep wood dry and well ventilated. Prevent moisture accumulation which encourages beetle development. Dehumidify damp basements or crawlspaces.

Apply Protective Sealants

Use appropriate stains, paints, or borate-based sealants on bare wood items to deter beetle infestation. Reapply as directed.

Install Wood Barriers

Use concrete, brick, or vinyl barriers between wood siding and soil to prevent moisture and insect access.

Routinely Inspect

Check exposed wood every 6-12 months for early signs of holes, frass, or damage so treatment can begin promptly if issues are found.


Powderpost beetles can be stubborn pests capable of costly structural damage if left unchecked. Identifying the signs of infestation early and taking proactive, thorough control measures provides the best chance for eliminating an infestation. For severe infestations inside critical structural wood, calling a pest professional is strongly advised. Implementing preventative measures reduces the chances powderpost beetles ever gain access in the first place. With persistence and diligence in following proper identification, inspection, and treatment techniques, powderpost beetles can be managed and your wood items and home structure protected from major harm.

Frequently Asked Questions About Controlling Powderpost Beetles

What areas are most prone to powderpost beetle infestations?

Attics, hardwood floors, wall framing, basements, crawlspaces, and window sills are common problem areas. Anywhere untreated solid wood is used. Branches or firewood brought indoors are also prone to harboring beetles.

How can I tell if I have an active powderpost beetle infestation?

Presence of live larvae, pupae, or adult beetles indicates an active infestation. Exit holes with fresh frass or any signs of new damage spreading show active beetles are present.

Are there any health risks from powderpost beetles?

Powderpost beetles do not bite humans or pets and are not known to directly spread disease. But inhaling high amounts of wood dust from beetle frass can potentially cause respiratory issues in sensitive individuals if infestation goes unchecked.

How long do powderpost beetle infestations last in a home?

In ideal conditions with no treatment, powderpost beetles can continually breed and infest susceptible wood for many years. Several overlapping generations allows them to persist and cause ongoing damage.

Do powderpost beetles damage live trees?

No, powderpost beetles only consume and damage wood content. They cannot damage live trees. But dead branches or logs cut from infested trees can allow beetles to spread to nearby structures.

Should I replace all wood damaged by powderpost beetles?

In structural framing, replacement is often best to prevent instability or collapse. For furniture, small holes can often be repaired if the overall integrity remains intact. Deep tunnels usually necessitate replacement.

What temperature kills powderpost beetles?

Exposing larvae, pupae, eggs, and adults to temperatures below 20°F for at least 4 days will kill all life stages. Temperatures between 120°F – 140°F for 30 minutes also kills all beetle forms through heat treatment.

Are closets more prone to infestation than other areas?

Yes, closets can be at higher risk. The dark, enclosed spaces are ideal habitat. They commonly share walls with voids where beetles can spread from. Rodents can also carry beetles into closet areas. Close inspections inside closets helps detect any signs early.

Can powderpost beetles damage plywood?

They generally do not infest plywood or manufactured wood products as often as solid wood. However, if the plywood incorporates a real wood veneer, this can still be damaged by the beetles potentially.