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To Beetle or not to Beetle

beetle, insect
21 Mar

There are more than 800,000 species of insects on earth, more than all the other plants and animals combined. Of this great number of insects, nearly half are beetles. If all the different species of plants and animals on earth were randomly lined up, every fifth one would be a beetle. Really plentiful. Whether you’re talking about a swarm of bees buzzing about, a cluster of butterflies sucking down nectar or a nest of cockroaches hidden in a corner of your house, insects are plentiful. Here are three common ones that are likely to “bug” us in the UK


Woodworm create a huge amount of havoc for their size. These little fellas are only about 3mm long. They are rarely seen but are in abundance between May and August. They love to munch dead wood, particularly that old antique table from Auntie Kate or your house timbers.

Woodworm beetles are brown all over, and quite hairy. They normally appear between May and August to mate, after which, the female deposits around 50 eggs in the crevice of a piece of wood. In a house, this is often between the joints of wooden furniture.

Many people are familiar with the damage caused by these tiny insects, although very few people have actually seen the beetle responsible. Hardly surprising when you see how tiny woodworm beetles are.

The eggs hatch after around three or four weeks, and the larvae which emerge immediately start to eat and tunnel into, the nearest piece of wood.

Treat any “live” holes quickly and thoroughly with a woodworm spray containing permethrin

The larvae remain in the wood, chomping away, until they are fully grown, which can take between two and five years.

When fully grown, the larvae eat out a small chamber, just under the surface of the wood, where they pupate. After a few weeks, the adult beetles are ready to emerge. They eat their way to the surface and fly out, leaving behind the familiar round exit holes in the wood.


Carpet beetles are active right now and will be until the end of October. Be sure they are not munching their way through your best Axminster as you read this. They are 3 to 5mms long and it’s actually the larvae that eat carpets, not the adults. They’re called woolly bears as they are so hairy, but bear suggests something much larger than they actually are.

The adult beetles feed on nectar and pollen. The larvae feed on dry materials and dead insects. They have been known to reduce museum collections to piles of dust.

The adult beetles sometimes appear on walls and window sills in spring and early summer. The patterns can vary, but they mostly feature a zig-zag of light and dark colouration.

The females like to fly inside houses to lay their eggs. There can be up to 100 eggs, and when they hatch, the young feed on woolen clothing and carpets, especially soiled materials.


These ominously named beetles are found around the UK and are a similar menace to the Woodworm Beetle, only they are larger, approximately 6mm long.

They are seen around the spring months and infest old trees and building timbers especially in damp areas. The larvae are particularly attracted to oak.

Death-watch beetles are wood boring beetles. They breed in old trees and building timbers. The larvae of the death-watch beetles can cause considerable damage as they feed inside building timbers. When they emerge from their tunnels they leave a round hole approximately 4mm across.

The adult beetles are brown and covered in tiny hairs. You can sometimes hear them in springtime tapping their heads on old timber in order to attract a mate. This can be quite spooky in houses as they continue tapping through the night.

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