Many of the common bark beetles have the same small size and compact, rounded shape of the Bostrichidae, which we call false powderpost beetles and some of which can be serious structural pests. A very easy feature that tells these two families apart is the antenna. The antenna of the Scolytidae (bark beetles) is very short and the last few segments form an enlarged, compact “club”. The antenna of the Bostrichids is much longer, and the last three segments are enlarged, but do not form this club-like end. The bark beetles, in general, just are not problems in structural wood members.
Ambrosia Beetles are Scolytids, and these beetles can continue to live and feed in lumber that is built into structures. The word “ambrosia” comes from the fact that the larvae do not actually feed on the wood, but feed on fungus that grows in the channels created by the adult beetles. The adults bore through the bark of the tree and then continue to bore into the sound wood to create narrow chambers. They then introduce a fungus to this channel, and moisture in the wood enables the fungus to grow. The larvae then feed on the fungus, and oddly are actually cared for by the female beetle, who continues to feed them their diet of fungus as they develop. This is completely unlike any other wood infesting beetle, where the larvae are completely independent of any care by adult beetles. Once the larva has pupated and transformed to the adult beetle it emerges from the wood, but does so by crawling back out through the openings created by its parents.
Several generations of the beetles may occur in a piece of the wood if the moisture conditions continue to be appropriate, and the galleries may be extended for each generation. This is the reason that it is possible for lumber in homes to have a living infestation of ambrosia beetles. They originally infested the standing tree while it had bark on it, but if proper kiln drying or pressure treating is not done they may survive to be built in. The fungus that grows in the feeding channels causes a dark stain on the wood, and once the wood is milled it may be cut across these channels, exposing that dark color as holes or streaks on the surface of the wood.
Another name for the ambrosia beetles is “wood stainers”. The way to identify that this is NOT a powder post or deathwatch beetle is the appearance of those holes at the surface. They will not be perfectly round and perpendicular to the surface of the wood, but instead will clearly be at an angle to the surface. Along with the dark staining of the channels and holes this tells you it is bark beetle. Control of excessive moisture will eliminate the beetles by eliminating the ability of their fungal food to grow inside the wood. For a more immediate kill an application of an insecticide that can penetrate into the sound wood will be effective.
Ambrosia Beetles Live in Lumber and Your Home Mesa, AZ
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