The other suspects

Three other kinds of woodworm may attack timber in homes in Britain, but they are all much rarer than the furniture beetle.

The house longhorn beetle (Hylotrubes bajulus) is confined almost exclusively to parts of Surrey and Hampshire and tends to attack rafters of softwood. The grubs can bore for up to six years before they emerge, creating a crumbly warren of tunnels beneath a smooth veneer.

The powder-post beetle (Lyctus brunneus) has a similar effect on hardwoods such as oak, ash, walnut and elm. It may be found, for example, in parquet flooring, but is also relatively rare.

Small-scale infestations by both the house longhorn beetle and the powder-post beetle can be treated by DIY methods, like furniture beetle.

The most notorious of all is death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum), so-called because its eerie clicking sound (in fact a mating call) could be heard by those keeping a silent vigil over the dying, and so was thought to be an omen of death. The death watch beetle is found in southern England, and tends to attack damp or decaying hardwoods, such as rafters of elm and oak, so these days it is more readily associated with churches than homes. Death watch beetle can cause serious damage, and should be treated by specialists.

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