Death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum)

GenusXestobium (1)
SizeLength: 5 - 9 mm (2)

The death watch beetle is not threatened (1).

The larvae of the common death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) are notorious pests of furniture and structural timbers in buildings (3). Adult death watch beetles have cylindrical bodies and small heads (2).

The common name refers to the repeated ticking sound produced by the adults as they bang their heads against the wood, possibly to attract a mate. When heard at night, this eerie mating call was once thought to count down to the time of death (4).

The death watch beetle is common and widespread in southern England (1), and is less common as a pest species in the north of England (1).

The death watch beetle occurs as a pest of wood indoors or in dead wood of very old trees outside (1).

Adult death watch beetles may be found on flowers during the spring. In many species belonging to this family of beetles (Anobiidae), the gut contains microorganisms that help the beetles to break down the cellulose found in wood (2). The adult females lay eggs in crevices on the wood, and the larvae tunnel in after hatching (5). The presence of the larvae in wood can go unnoticed until the adults emerge, leaving distinctive holes at the surface. These exit holes measure around three to four millimetres in diameter (3).

The deatch watch beetle is not considered to be threatened.

Conservation action is not required for the death watch beetle.

Discover more about invertebrates and their conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January, 2004)
  2. Harde, K.W. (2000) Beetles. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
  3. Kendall Bioresearch (January, 2004)
  4. Buczaki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
  5. Chinery. M. (1993) Insects of Britain and Northern Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, London.