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What are Death Watch Beetles and are they dangerous?
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What are Death Watch Beetles?

Despite the fear-inducing name, a Death Watch Beetle is simply a type of wood-boring beetle who inhabits the dead wood of several hardwood species found across the United Kingdom. As the grubs diet on old hardwood structural timbers, however, they can cause significant problems to building structures and are bad news for homeowners! Similarly to Drywood Termites and other wood-boring insects, Death Watch Beetles are particularly common in stately homes, barn conversions and cabins built with hardwood structures in which the beetle family has likely lived since the property was constructed.

As with all wood-boring insects, the damage is not caused by the adult beetles, which live for only a few weeks, but by the larvae burrowing inside the timber. This part of the insect’s life cycle can last for up to 13 years – so spotting them early is a must.

Infestations are typically easy to spot as the insects leave light holes that are approximately 2mm to 3mm in diameter – slightly wider than those of the common furniture beetle. If you can’t find any flight holes, then it is possible to identify the insects by the ‘ticking’ noises they make within damp wooden structures.


Are Death Watch Beetles dangerous?

If you live in a modern house without oak or elm timbers or have wooden structures that have recently been checked for damp, it is unlikely you will find an infestation of Death Watch Beetles in your residency. However, if you have concerns that your wooden structures have been battling damp or are particularly old, you may be in trouble!

Whilst the superstitious may tell you Death Watch Beetles are bad luck to have in a healthy household, as folklore connected the ticking noise of the insects to be a ‘death watch’ in the silence of a bedside vigil, they aren’t known to cause any harm to residents and are therefore only dangerous to older wooden structures.


What should you do if you find Death Watch Beetles?

If an infestation is found in structural timbers, then we would strongly recommend contacting a professional home pest control service, as they can be tricky to get rid of yourself.

As the wood rot and consequent infestation often occur in the heart of the timber due to sap-water, chemicals are highly unlikely to reach where the insects have made their homes.

Despite conventional thinking, the beetle doesn’t always emerge from the timber to mate and lay eggs, and the female has been observed to crawl back into flight holes to lay eggs deep beneath the limits of treatment.


A trained professional exterminator will have the technical knowledge and access to a range of professional use products and equipment which are not available to the public. If you live in the Yorkshire Area and discover you have a death watch beetle problem give us a call on 01904 819941. We understand you want your pest problem sorting, fast. Our highly competitive residential pest control services and commercial pest control services will leave your home or workplace pest free in no time at all!