Fun Deathwatch Beetle Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Jan 05, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Ankit Shinde
Deathwatch beetle facts for kids are interesting to read.

A deathwatch beetle is a common house pest, and infamous as an omen of death, because of the 'tapping' noise they make. This noise is terrifying to hear in the middle of a quiet night.

They are classified into the Ptinidae family of the Coleoptera order. The Ptinidae family was previously known as the Anobiidae family. They are traced by the bore dust left on the surface, or on the floor after the adults appear through holes.

The damage can be controlled or cured by localized treatment, replacing the damaged wood, and structural fumigation. The treatment must be started as soon as the damages are traced.

Similar to other beetles of the family Anobiidae, they have a cylindrically shaped body with reddish-brown or dark brown colored elytra, and short hairs on their body. Their infamous tapping sound is also utilized to attract females. The females can lay 40-80 eggs per clutch. Active larvae feed on dead wood, pieces of furniture and fixtures, and old trees.

To learn more, we have collected a set of interesting facts about deathwatch beetles for you to read in this article. You can also learn more about fascinating wild animals and insect facts by reading up more articles on the green scarab beetle and the tiger beetle.

Deathwatch Beetle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a deathwatch beetle?

The deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum), also known as the furniture beetle, is a species of beetles from the Xestobium genus of the Ptinidae family, previously known as the Anobiidae family. They are known as a part of the wood-boring beetle group and feed on dead wood.

Deathwatch beetles are also known for their infamous 'tapping' and 'ticking' sound, in the middle of a quiet night!

What class of animal does a deathwatch beetle belong to?

Deathwatch beetles belong to the Coleoptera order of the Insecta class of the Animalia kingdom.

How many deathwatch beetles are there in the world?

They are one of the most difficult insects to track and gather exact facts and figures on. Deathwatch beetles are tiny creatures who feed on old trees and deadwood. Thereby, it's next to impossible to have an exact number of the strength of their population.

Where does a deathwatch beetle live?

They are often spotted all over the United Kingdom, including Wales and England. However, their population density is lower in the Northern part of the United Kingdom. Many of their species are found in the United States as well.

What is a deathwatch beetle habitat?

Deathwatch beetles are found in farmlands, woodlands, old buildings, houses, towns, and gardens. They gain the required nutrition from wood, especially from older trees with moisture levels of 13-30%, and decaying timber. They are fond of timber, which has already started decaying, due to fungal attacks.

These softened woods have an impact on their nitrogen metabolism. Decaying timber is an ideal place for larvae to grow. Their preferences for host trees are European oak, American oak, and pollard willows.

Who do deathwatch beetles live with?

In general, beetles are solitary creatures and form breeding pairs right before their mating season. However, the exact data about deathwatch beetles is as yet unknown.

How long does a deathwatch beetle live?

The length of their life cycle depends on their habitat and nutrition. The time required for the larvae to evolve into an adult can be as short as one year to 13 years as well.

After evolving as an adult, they emerge from holes made in the wood. Whenever they come out, it speeds up the decaying of the timber and leaves holes that are 0.1-0.2 in (3-4 mm) in size.

How do they reproduce?

The adult western beetles are prepared to mate as soon as they emerge from their hole. They emerge between April and June. Surface wood is the ideal place for adults to mate.

The males use the tapping method to attract the females. Females lay their eggs in the very same hole they emerged from, or in wood cracks. Females lay 40-80 eggs per clutch and the incubation period lasts one month.

What is their conservation status?

The deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) is Not Listed on the International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. They are commonly available throughout the United Kingdom.

Deathwatch Beetle Fun Facts

What do deathwatch beetles look like?

Deathwatch beetles are identified by their cylindrical structure, brown-colored thoracic shield placed on their head, and reddish-brown or dark-brown colored elytra. They also have yellowish-gray short hairs on their body. Their antennas come with three enlarged distal segments and 11 segments in total. They have hairy legs, which come with four segments.

The larvae have a whitish-colored 'C' shaped body with six legs and they feed on decaying woods. These grubs are approximately 0.4 in (11 mm) in length.

How cute are they?

They are not particularly cute animals. The brownish shade of adults, and the nature of damaging wood and making tunnels in it, makes them highly unlikeable.

How do they communicate?

They communicate by making tapping noises, which are created when they hit their head on wood. This is also a part of their mating call, where males take the initiative to start and females respond to it.

It acts as a long-distance call, because of the vibration it creates. The ticking and tapping sounds they make at midnight are a nuisance for humans.

How big is a deathwatch beetle?

The adults are approximately 0.1-0.3 in (5-9 mm) in length and larvae can grow up to 0.4 in (11 mm) long. The size of the larvae depends on their age and nutrition. Deathwatch beetles are approximately four times shorter in length compared to ten lined June beetles, which are 0.8-1.5 in (22-38.1 mm) in length.

How fast can a deathwatch beetle fly?

Deathwatch beetles can fly, however, the adults are rarely seen flying. Therefore, the exact speed at which they fly is unknown.

How much does a deathwatch beetle weigh?

Being such tiny creatures, the exact bodyweight of the deathwatch beetles is unknown.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no particular names given to male and female deathwatch beetles.

What would you call a baby deathwatch beetle?

Baby deathwatch beetles are simply called larvae. They have a C-shaped body and are white in appearance.

What do they eat?

They feed on decaying wood. An active larva is capable of digesting the cellulose present in the wood. The tunnels the larvae make on a piece of furniture, wooden decors, fittings in old buildings, and old trees, start to decay the timber. The tapping and ticking sound adult deathwatch beetles make are enough to ruin anyone's sleep.

Are they poisonous?

Deathwatch beetles are known for decaying timbers. There are species such as blister beetles, who are poisonous. However, there isn't any data regarding deathwatch beetles being poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

The deathwatch beetle is a small-sized common pest. On top of that, they can ruin the structural timber of buildings, and their tapping and ticking sound in a quiet night are considered to be a bad omen as well. Therefore, we would suggest that they wouldn't make a good pet.

Did you know...

Consult professionals to prevent the damages caused by the holes and tunnels these beetles make. With the help of professionals, an infestation of deathwatch beetles is easy to deal with.

When the infestation is in the active stage, control it with localized treatment, replacing the damaged wood, and structural fumigation. Localized treatment is one of the most effective ways to control them.

How do I identify a deathwatch beetle?

A deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) can be traced by the bore dust it leaves behind surrounding the holes made on structural timbers of old buildings, and pieces of furniture. They are identified by their thoracic shield, and elytra, colored with shades of brown. The yellowish-gray short hairs on their body are also a sign of their identification.

Why is it called a deathwatch beetle?

Superstitious humans consider the tapping noise as a bad omen. They believe it can bring death to the members of the family. People also believe that, in old buildings, they 'watch' humans die from a distance.

Thereby, the name 'deathwatch beetle' came into place. Biologists claim that the 'tapping' sound is the mating call of these beetles. Throughout history, they are known as the only natural predators of wooden structures.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods including dung beetle facts and morpho butterfly facts.  

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable deathwatch beetle coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Ankit Shinde

Bachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ankit Shinde picture

Ankit ShindeBachelor of Journalism and Mass Communication

Ankit is a Journalism and Mass Media graduate from the University of Mumbai. With experience in SEO, blog and article writing, and fiction writing, he is a versatile writer and content creator. In his free time, Ankit enjoys reading, writing, and listening to music.

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