Troubleshooting Insects in Wood Flooring
Of course there are other wood destroying insects such as termites, carpenter ants, false powder post beetles, long horned beetles, etc. but the most common tech call about insects involves the true powder post beetles. Though there are only a few calls involving insects each year, the mere suspicion that insects are consuming the home elicits fear and very upset home owners.
The first steps for dealing with any insect situation will be to determine if the infestation is active. An active true powder post beetle (ppb) infestation, family Lyctidae, will exhibit a newly formed circular hole in the face of the flooring with a ¼” to ½” long connecting gallery that is vertical to the surface of the flooring. The hole can be very small from 1/32” to about 1/8” in diameter. A small mound of fine “wood dust” will surround the hole like a volcano. This is an exit hole created by the adult beetle. As the adults exit they are drawn toward the light so placing a glass over the hole with a nearby light turned on particularly at night can capture the beetle. This capture is important since positive identification by a professional entomologist is necessary for choosing options of remediation.
I have inspected floors where existing worm holes were packed with dust during sanding and were not filled. The holes were revealed when the finish film broke from foot traffic and the packed dust either was pumped out of the hole or sifted further down. The existing gallery walls were stained with finish materials and the surrounding wood was discolored. Some galleries were at an angle to the face, and extend deep into the board or even completely through. In these cases there was no active infestation and the remedy was to either accept the holes or fill them with appropriate filler.
Topically applied house hold insecticides can be used to kill emerging adults to buy extended time to make informed decisions for remediation. The key item is that the house structure is not in danger like with a termite infestation and the damage from the insects progresses slowly.