800-937-8398 Call us for a free quote Contact us

Deathwatch beetle

Color of deathwatch beetle

The adult deathwatch beetle is reddish-brown to nearly black, sometimes with areas of pale hairs. Larva is nearly white.


Hairy-legged larvae. In adults, a hood-like prothorax usually encloses the head. Larva is c-shaped with an enlarged thorax, short 2-segmented antennae, and yes, hairy 4-segmented legs.


Where found

Around the world, with about 310 species occurring in the United States.


Sapwood of softwoods and hardwoods with a moisture content of 13-30%.


Anobiids can digest wood cellulose, due to yeast cells in their digestive tracts.


The deathwatch beetle is nocturnal. Females lay their 20-60 eggs in cracks, in old exit holes, and under surface splinters of wood. Development from egg to adult takes 1 year under very favorable conditions, but it usually requires 2-3 years indoors, and sometimes longer. Adults communicate with each other, and probably locate mates, by tapping their heads against wood, usually at night. Deathwatch beetles might have acquired their name during medieval times in Europe when people heard the tapping while sitting up with a sick or dying person during the night. Legend has it they attributed the sound to the tapping of the staff of the scythe of the grim reaper coming to take away the soon-to-be deceased!


Damage to structural timbers, lumber and lumber products, especially in the southeastern states and in moist coastal states. In structures, most species attack only older wood that is 9-10+ years old.


The female deathwatch beetle usually lays eggs on the same wood from which she emerged. Look for round exit holes with piles of gritty powder nearby and new holes in the spring.

Good riddance

When using any pesticide, be certain it is registered for the target pest/location, read the entire label first, and follow all directions, restrictions and precautions. If infestation is active, control with localized treatment and replacing wood or fumigation of structure by a licensed fumigator.

Find your local branch

We were unable to access your location. Adjust your browser settings or enter your place or zip code above

Mr. Little's blog

See what the hot pest topics are in Mr. Little’s world.