About Wood Boring Beetles


Beetles display some of the most diverse morphological forms in the animal kingdom. Wood boring beetles are no exception and demonstrate quite variable forms as both larvae and adults. Some adults range from the very large, i.e., >50mm (some Buprestidae and Cerambycidae), while others are minute, i.e., <5mm (most Ptinine Anobiidae and some Bostrichidae). Overall body structure in the adults likewise is variable from nearly cylindrical forms (some Bostrichidae and Cerambycidae), to dorso-ventrally flattened beetles (Buprestidae), to those that appear spider-like (Ptinine Anobiidae). In larval stages, some are straight and parallel-sided (Buprestidae and Cerambycidae) while others are C-shaped. Thus, although no general trend in the shape or size of wood boring beetles can be defined, this mode of life has proven to be successful with multiple origins of the behavior in diverse lineages of beetles.

Pest information

Port Identifiers, Foresters, Taxonomists, Ecologists and others are challenged daily with identifying an amazing diversity of beetles originating from throughout the world in wood and wood products. As globalization continues, the necessity to accurately and efficiently identify beetles derived from these sources will rise. Wood and wood products used to support, brace, or package commodities during shipment provide a pathway for global transport of wood boring beetles. Storage of commodities packaged or shipped with low grade wood products near forested lands or the disposal of wood packaging in or near natural forest further provide an avenue for introduction and establishment of non-indigenous beetle taxa.

Some beetle species eat bark and heartwood directly and others use the wood to cultivate fungi, which is subsequently fed upon. Wood boring beetles cause great damage and have considerable economic importance to both timber, lumber, structural products, decorative materials, and other forestry products. In many cases, the larval stage causes as much or more direct damage than the adult life stage through its feeding activities. Immature stages of wood boring beetles can even complete development and emerge as adults after the commodity has arrived in the U.S.

Wood boring beetles are a well-known group that causes significant ecological and economic impacts to forests. Introductions of non-native species into the U.S. cost ~$2.1 billion per year in forest product revenue. For example, the Asian longhorned beetle (Cerambycidae) was first detected in the U.S. in 1996, and subsequently the estimated urban resource losses from this pest are ~$669 billion. The emerald ash borer (Buprestidae) has killed millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada and severely threatens the $280 billion ash industry in North America. Port interceptions of solid wood packing materials (crating, dunnage, and pallets) represented 84% of the total interceptions on wood articles at U.S. ports between 1985-1998; and ~93% of all insects intercepted were beetles. Other notable wood boring beetle pests include: the dunnage beetle (Bostrichidae), the wharf borer (Oedemeridae), ship timber beetles (Lymexylidae), the furniture beetle (Anobiidae), timberworms (Brentidae), and ironclad beetles (Zopheridae).


Key player updated February 2018
Content last modified: February 4, 2011