Powder-Post Beetles in Cabinetry

Where could those pesky critters be coming from? June 5, 2007

Has anyone had complaints of insects boring holes and consuming your cabinetry? I have had two different clients complain of this. The best I can tell, they are called powder post beetles. Both cases are pre-finished maple bathroom cabinets. I usually find out about this the spring after install. Rep claims that they can not be from before lumber was processed.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor M:
They sure can be from the lumber itself. It happened to me many years ago. I used some oak which had apparently not been fumigated when it was dried and a couple of the little critters came out of a cabinet I had built and installed in someone's home. Luckily the customer was a friend and the cabinet was an island, so I just removed it and took it to a termite place to have it gassed.

From contributor K:
Here is a clip about powder post beetles to show your rep.

"Imported tropical hardwoods are especially prone to lyctid beetle attack because of poor storage and drying practices prior to shipment to this country. Articles made of bamboo also are commonly infested. Rafters, joists, studs and other structural framing of homes are not normally attacked by lyctid beetles since these wood members are almost always constructed from pine or other softwoods.

"Lyctids rarely infest wood older than five years. Thus, infestations generally are encountered in new homes or newly-manufactured articles. In almost all cases, infestation results from wood that contained eggs or larvae at the time it was placed in the home. This is significant because responsibility for damage/replacement often resides with the builder, cabinet maker or furniture manufacturer rather than the homeowner. Typically, the infested article was constructed from wood which was improperly dried or stored."

From Professor Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:

I believe that you have lumber with the lyctid PPB. It may be two years before the eggs hatch and the insects leave the wood, making the small holes. They usually leave in the spring with the heat. Who dried the wood? When the wood left the kiln, it was sterilized. So, between the kiln and when you built the cabinets is when the wood was infected.

The above quoted article has a few errors, such as blaming the builder. The lyctid PPB only infects hardwoods. The PPB is not flying around, so the infected wood had to be in close proximity to previously infected wood that has active PPB exiting the lumber (or debris). Contractors or builders would not have the necessary conditions. Likewise, most cabinet shops would not have infected material in inventory that could infect other lumber unless they have long inventory storage and/or foreign (imported) wood.

In any case, you would not be able to detect if the lumber you bought had an infection. So, you need to buy from a supplier that is known to have PPB free conditions and keeps the KD lumber away from non-KD lumber and from foreign wood. It would be uncommon to find large operations being careless; it is usually a small operation.