Powderpost Beetles Vs. Termites – A Layman’s Ultimate Guide

Unfortunately, termites are not the only wood-eating bugs.

There are quite a few others that destroy wood. One of these wood bugs is the powderpost beetle.

Powderpost beetles have brought down many a home and rickhouses.

There’s so much confusion between the infestation signs of powderpost beetles and termites that many people make a mistake in choosing the correct extermination process.

In this post on powderpost beetles Vs. termites, you’ll get a deep insight into the differences between the two.

It’s not a post that’ll tell you how different they look. Everyone knows both look different from each other.

By the time you’ll finish reading this post, you’ll be an expert in recognizing what kind of infestation you’ve, a powderpost beetle or a termite infestation.

It’ll immensely help you in choosing the right wood bug treatment for your property. If you use termite treatment for powderpost beetle or vice versa, you can’t protect your home from damage.

To make it easy for you to understand, we’ve simplified the complex etymological terms.

Does that sound interesting? If yes, then let’s dive in!

Powderpost Beetles and Termites – A Brief Overview

Let’s begin with a brief overview of these wood-eating bugs. Knowing a little about them will help you in determining their types and habits.


Termites are no stranger to you. There’s barely anyone on the planet who hasn’t had a loss because of termites.

There are four types of termites –

  • Subterranean termites
  • Drywood termites
  • Formosan termites
  • Dampwood termites

The first three termites are home invaders. They destroy wooden stuff and books in your home.

The fourth type, dampwood termites, is more of an outdoor termite. It lives and feasts on damp and rotting wood. They barely infest homes that don’t have decaying wood.

That’s why dampwood termite infestation is quite common in places like the garage, wet basement, patio furniture, and garden fences.

Powderpost Beetles

Powderpost beetles are wood-eating insects that turn wood into a flour-like powder.

But what’s interesting is that it’s not the adult powderpost beetles that eat and destroy wood.

It’s the larvae that do this destructive work.

Same is the case with horntail wasp. The adult lays egg inside the wood and the larvae eat the wood from inside.

We’ll get into the differences between termites and powderpost beetles’ infestation processes later in the post.

But for now, let’s look at the types of powderpost beetles.

There are three types of powderpost beetles –

  • Lyctid powderpost beetles
  • Bostrichid powderpost beetles
  • Anobiid powderpost beetles

Going deeper into the characteristics of each would be like doing a master’s in entomology. But as a property owner, here are the basic things that you need to know about powderpost beetles –

  • Anobiid powderpost beetles do more damage than lyctid and Bostrichid powderpost beetles.
  • The larvae of these beetles make zigzag tunnels inside the wood till they chew their way out from a hole as an adult.
  • These beetles are not pantry pests like drugstore beetles. Many people think they’re, but they’re not.

Both termites and powderpost beetles have a massive appetite for wood. But there are some stark differences in how they fulfill their craving, which brings us to their differences.

Powderpost Beetles Vs. Termites – The Differences

This section is essential for you. It’ll make you spot the differences between them better than a pro.

And when we talk about spotting the differences, we don’t mean figuring out the differences in their looks.

We all know they look different from each other. There’s no similarity in looks, even by a mile.

By spotting the differences, we mean –

  • Spotting the differences in their ways of infesting.
  • Spotting the differences in the signs of their infestation
  • And most importantly, the differences in the types of wood they infest.

Sounds good? Ok, let’s move on.

Differences In Powderpost Beetles and Termites’ Ways Of Infestation

Adult termites bore into the wood to live and breed till they eat it away from the inside.

But it’s only the adult Bostrichid powderpost beetle that drills into the wood to lay eggs.

The adult Lyctid and Anobiid powderpost beetles lay their eggs in the wooden cracks and holes in unfinished wood.

Yes, powderpost beetles avoid finished wood with coating and waxing. More about it later in the post.

Both the adult termites and their larvae destroy the wood from inside.

But it’s the powderpost beetle’s larvae that eat the wood from inside till it becomes an adult.

Till it reaches adulthood, it remains inside the wood. And when it becomes an adult, all it does is dig a hole from inside the wood and fly off.

Yes, powderpost beetles can fly. When it comes to termites, it’s only the drywood termites that can fly.

Termites live in colonies inside the wood. Their lives revolve around a queen of the settlement.

The powderpost beetles don’t live in colonies. But there can be multiple powderpost beetle larvae inside the same wooden object.

Differences Between The Signs Of Infestation Of Powderpost Beetles And Termites

Powderpost beetles will leave a pile of fine wood flour (that looks like sawdust) below the hole from where they come out as adults.

There could be multiple piles of sawdust below the same wooden piece if there were many powderpost beetle larvae inside.

Signs of termite infestation varies by the kind of termite that has infested the wood.

Subterranean termite infestation is visible as mud tubes on the wood’s surface or the wall they’ve infested. They use these mud tubes to travel from one place to another and protect themselves from lack of moisture.

In the case of drywood termites’ infestation, there can be brownish specks of dust under the little holes they create on the wood to discard their feces.

This dust doesn’t look like fine sawdust that powderpost beetles discard.

Differences In The Types Of Wood Powderpost Beetles And Termites Prefer

Lyctid and Bostrichid powderpost beetles only prefer hardwood. So, furniture made of expensive hardwoods like oak, hickory, poplar is vulnerable to these powderpost beetles’ infestation.

But Anobiid powderpost beetles can infest both hardwood and softwood. It makes them the most lethal among the three beetle types.

Termites prefer softwood, but drywood termites can also infest a few types of hardwood.

Powderpost Beetles Vs. Termites – The Similarities

When it comes to similarities between termites and powderpost beetles, there aren’t many.

But there are three similarities between them –

  • Both are wood eating bugs and wood-boring insects.
  • Glowing light bulbs attract drywood termites and powderpost beetles.
  • Swarming drywood termites and powderpost beetles can fly.

Drywood termites enter your home in swarms. They swarm when they’re looking for a place to make a new colony. In other words, to infest.

How Powderpost Beetles Enter Your Home

Powderpost beetles enter your home in two ways –

  • Glowing light bulbs attract adult powderpost beetles causing them to fly inside your home through open doors and windows. They find pieces of unfinished wood with cracks and holes where they lay eggs.
  • Powderpost beetle larvae are already present in the new pieces of wood that you introduce to your home.

The second way is more dangerous. It’s impossible to tell if a new piece of furniture has powderpost beetle larvae in it unless you can find holes on them.

How Powderpost Beetles Select Wood To Lay Their Eggs

Powderpost beetles use two criteria to select woods to infest –

  • Timbers with high starch and moisture content.
  • Unfinished woods.

To lay eggs, female powderpost beetles look for woods with at least 3% starch and 10% moisture content in them.

Both starch and moisture are critical for the larvae’s growth inside the wood.

That’s why powderpost beetles prefer new pieces of hardwood furniture. These woods have enough starch and moisture to sustain the larvae.

Many manufacturers and makers of furniture handle wood callously without proper storage and drying facilities. It leads to powderpost beetle infestation for which you’re not responsible.

Female powderpost beetles avoid finished wood because there are no cracks or holes on the finished wood’s surface.

So, varnished, stained, polished, waxed, and painted woods are immune to powderpost beetle infestation.

But if larvae are underneath the surface of finished wood, they can emerge out of it through the holes they create when they turn into adults.

As the wood ages, the starch and moisture content in the wood decreases. Less content of starch and moisture in aged wood makes the wood less vulnerable to powderpost beetle infestation.

Why Powderpost Beetles Avoid Softwood?

Powderpost beetles avoid softwood because softwood has low starch and moisture content than hardwood.

Powderpost beetles are not like termites. Termites’ primary food source is cellulose present in softwood.

But there’s an exception – Anobiid powderpost beetles.

Anobiid powderpost beetles tend to infest softwood too. They can easily survive on cellulose, just like termites.

Anobiid powderpost beetles don’t need much starch and moisture. That’s why they are likely to infest even old pieces of wood.

How Long Powderpost Beetle Larva Take To Turn Into An Adult?

The growth of larvae inside the wood depends on the amount of starch and moisture in the wood.

If the wood piece is new, with an optimal level of starch (3%) and moisture (10%), then the larva will reach the adult stage in less than a year.

But with old pieces of wood that are low in starch and moisture, the larva may take up to 5 years to come out from the wood as an adult.

That’s why they say powderpost beetle rise from nowhere.

How To Check For Powderpost Beetle Infestation?

Powderpost beetle Infested Wood

The first step you must take before treating for powderpost beetle infestation is to check out if the infestation is still active.

Here are the signs of active powderpost beetle infestation –

  • If the powder out of the holes has a color of freshly sawed wood, it’s a sign of active infestation. If the powder looks dirty and chunky, then it’s a sign of inactive infestation.
  • Active infestation makes the holes look fresh, with wood dust on the edges of the holes. If the holes look as weathered as the wood surrounding them, there isn’t any active infestation.

There’s a way to check if there are any active larvae inside the wood.

It’s called seal-off-the-hole-method.

Seal off the holes on the wood with an excellent quality sealant.

If you observe any new holes on the wood after a few days, then there are powderpost beetle larvae inside the wood. It’s a sign of active infestation.

How to tell if it’s a termite infestation or powderpost beetle infestation?

Here comes the trickiest part. How to distinguish between a powderpost beetle infestation and termite infestation?

It can get confusing because both drywood termites and powderpost beetles discard dust out of the holes.

To spot the difference, you need to pay attention to the sawdust.

Powderpost beetles discard sawdust that looks like a fine talcum powder in beige color.

Sawdust From Powderpost Beetle Hole

But termites don’t discard sawdust.

Termites discard their feces from the holes. Their feces have a mix of both brown and black particles. It’s not fine powder-like sawdust. It’s grainy.

But the good part about powderpost beetle infestation is that the infestation signs don’t mean that your property needs immediate treatment.

Just because you see sawdust doesn’t mean that the powderpost beetle larvae are still inside the wood.

Maybe, they have moved out.

Or if the wood is old enough, the powderpost beetle larvae have died because of lack of nutrients.

Do you remember we mentioned that the powderpost beetle larvae need moisture and starch to survive? And both are abundant in new wood rather than in old lumber?

So, if the powderpost beetle doesn’t get either of them, it can die inside the wood.

You can use the sealing-off-the-hole method that we talked about earlier to determine any powderpost larvae inside the wood.

Powderpost Beetles Vs. Termites – Differences And Similarities In The Treatment Process

By now, you know a lot about the differences and similarities between termites and powderpost beetles.

The final thing that you must know is the differences and similarities in their control processes.

Let’s talk about similarities between the anti-termite and anti-powderpost beetle treatment processes. It’s the heat and fumigation processes.

But the difference is the time these processes take to get rid of each of them in your home. And the amount of pesticide needed to kill them.

For an average two-bedroom home with 2600 sq feet living area, termites’ fumigation process will take three to four days. Whereas for powderpost beetles, it’ll take six days on average.

Also, the amount of poison needed during the fumigation process to kill powderpost beetles is ten times more than what you need to kill termites.

The problem arises when pest controllers confuse powderpost beetle infestation as a termite infestation. They end up using heat and poison in quantities that are enough for termites but not enough for powderpost beetles.

But you can do a simple DIY hack to get rid of powderpost beetles. Use it only when you’re sure that you’ve powderpost beetle infestation.

The best DIY method of killing powderpost beetles is to use a good quality Borate Powder. You need to mix the borate powder with water and spray it on the wood’s surface, especially in the cracks and holes.

When the powderpost beetle’s larva ingests the borate mix, it screws up its digestive system and ends up killing it.

Powderpost Beetles Vs. Termites – Which One Is More Dangerous?

Without a doubt, termites are more destructive than powderpost beetles.

Termites infest in large numbers. The sheer quantity of them makes them more destructive than the powderpost beetles within the same time frame.

Termites also cause more damages ($5 billion per year) than powderpost beetles.

Termites don’t get out of the wood till they’ve eaten away the entire wood from inside.

But the powderpost beetle larvae get out when they turn into adults.

There’s one type of powderpost beetle that can cause as much damage, and sometimes even more damage than termites cause, to your property.

And that’s Anobiid powderpost beetle.

Anobiid powderpost beetles are nasty destroyers. They re-infest the same wood after turning into an adult.

The worst part about Anobiid beetles is, just like termites, that they can survive on cellulose. They also take more time (2-3 years) to turn into adults from the larval stage.

If Anobiid beetles are inside your home, then it’ll take you at least a couple of years to see the signs of infestation.

These traits of Anobiid powderpost beetles make them a lethal infester of beams, joists, and structural components of your home.

Whereas the other two types of beetles – Lyctid and Bostrichid beetles don’t cause damage to the structural components of your property.


This post on powderpost beetles vs. termites is the most detailed explanation of the differences between them on the web.

It’s missing all the long tongue-twisting biological and etymological terms that make the post easy for you to understand.

You’ve got to know the differences in the signs of infestation, what kinds of wood they infest, and the differences in the riddance process.

You’ve also got a fair idea on why drywood termites’ infestation and powderpost beetles’ infestation have similar signs. And why Anobiid powderpost beetles have the same infestation behavior as drywood termites.

To know more about drywood termites, which we think are the most dangerous types of termites, you can check our post on how drywood termites enter your home.