Females lay eggs in crevices in the wood or in the holes left by emerging beetles. The adults do not feed, and so die within a few weeks, by which time the female may have laid 40 to 80 eggs in small batches.
In buildings, deathwatch larvae infest old oak (or in some cases coniferous) timbers, especially those that have been the subject of fungal decay. Wood is difficult to digest, but as long as the wood has been softened by fungal decay, the enzymes in the guts of the larvae are able to digest the cellulose and hemicellulose forming the cell walls. The larvae growth is slow and it may take from two to ten years, or even more, for them to reach their full size. At this stage they pupate in a chamber close to the wood surface, and either emerge through a newly created hole after twenty to thirty days, or else emerge in the following spring.
The beetle does not infest wood that has recently died; many years must pass for dead oak to reach a suitable condition for attack. These beetles tend to stay on the same piece of wood for several generations until resources are used up and the piece of wood is no longer sufficient.
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