Specieswatch: beware the deathwatch beetle – Rights History

Specieswatch: beware the deathwatch beetle

Tapping noise was once believed to be harbinger of death, but real threat is to houses with old oak beams

The deathwatch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) gets its name from the tapping sound it makes when trying to attract a mate. In more superstitious times people living in old houses, keeping vigil by the sick beds of relatives, believed the sound to be a harbinger of death, hence the name.

That was a myth but the sound should set the alarm bells ringing for any owner of property containing old oak beams. These beetles can hollow them out and cause a collapse – as nearly happened in Westminster Hall in 1913.

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