I work in the damp Pacific Northwest. In the view of this Bellingham WA home inspector (King of the House, Inc) anobiid beetles have to be one of the most frustrating and insidious of the wood destroying organisms. I see this pest frequently — in crawl spaces. When I document in a report that there was anobiid beetle activity people always say: “Oh my, did you see them crawling around?” Well, this pest does not work that way. The adult anobiid beetle is smaller than a grain of rice. The female lays an egg on a piece of lumber, above a crack or blemish. A tiny larvae hatches and crawls down into the opening in the wood. This larvae feeds on the wood approximately 5 to 7 years. Then it goes through the stage known as pupating and emerges from the wood as an adult. The female lays an egg and the cycle of destruction continues. You can identity this pest if tiny, shot-sized, holes are evident in any of the beams, posts and joists of the crawl space. This pest can be so bad that they actually move up into the wall studs and the sub-floor.
How does a professional home inspector find them? First, there is kind of a sixth sense about the anobiid. They like moist environments so, when I find a crawl space with little to no ventilation, standing water, no vapor barrier and that musty smell, I make sure I take in my rock hammer and a bright flashlight. Once the small exit holes are detected, an inspector wants to determine the extent of the infestation and damage. That is done with the rock hammer. If they have been active for several years, the probability is that the wood is structurally very weak and a fine, and distinctive, frass falls out when lumber is sounded. Often the wood comes apart in strings. It is kind of like Styrofoam.
If you are a home buyer in the Pacific Northwest, where this pest is so common, be sure to hire a licensed structural pest inspector. If you think you cannot cannot afford an inspector, then at least do some basic snooping in the crawl space on your own. On the other hand, I believe that if a person is buying a home worth several hundred thousand dollars, and he or she cannot afford an inspector, then finances are such that maybe that person should rent as maintaining a home will be difficult. My advice is simple: If you seriously cannot afford a professional inspector, go in the crawl space yourself and look all over for damaged wood — especially the tiny exit holes left by the anobiid. If you find them, you absolutely need to call in a licensed structural pest inspector to evaluate the extent of the problem. If you do not even have the funds to do that, call me and I will give you a few free tips based on the information you supply.