Woodworm in Furniture

Dust from a new bookcase?

Q We purchased a bookcase 9 weeks ago and have just noticed very fine talc like powder pale yellow in colour on the back trim of it.  This was not there 3-4 weeks ago but there is a huge amount of this powder along the trim and on the carpet.  We are worried that even though it's on carpet we have parquet flooring underneath and it was about half an inch away from our skirting board. Please could you tell us if it is possible that it can spread to the areas we have just mentioned.

A Is it actually a woodworm infestation? Are you able to see the holes in the book case from which the dust emanated? - You do not mention holes. If there are holes in the bookcase then you should reject it and get your money back since it is not fit for purpose. If it is a woodworm then which particular species will depend upon many things such as the type of wood, country of origin etc. This will dictate whether or not the potential exists for it to spread. Even so the chances are low and you stand just as much chance as it flying in the window or being carried in on your clothes so do not panic. If you can not see any holes then it is probably dust left over from the manufacture.

Q First of all can I say thank you for one replying and two for calling us today. We have spoken to the shop and it looks like they are refusing responsibility and trying to say it has come from our house. So now we are going to speak to a solicitor on Monday 24th. There are loads of holes at the back of the case so I can't see how they have a leg to stand on. Once again it's nice to deal with someone like you who actually take the time to help.



Vietnamese woodworm

Q I have purchased two wooden carvings in Vietnam. I checked in the shop but did not find evidence of woodworms. Having received the carvings, there is clearly evidence of active woodworm infestation. The carvings are painted so I am worried about using a conventional treatment in case it damages the pieces. Can you recommend something?

A There is a heat treatment process available by a company called Thermo Lignum http://www.thermolignum.com/. This uses humidity controlled heat to eradicate infestations - no liquids. You may want to send your carvings to them for treatment in their chamber. Alternatively if they are small enough you may want to put them in your freezer for a week but we cannot be responsible for any damage which may occur.


New dresser is woodworm infested!

Q I have an oak dresser which I purchased a year ago from new and now it has woodworm. I noticed it first a couple of months ago as there was a saw dust like substance on the floor. At the time I didn't know it was woodworm. I have treated it twice and a dead beetle came out one of the holes. Would the infestation have started before I purchased the dresser or is it something that was likely to have started in my home? The dresser is very expensive so if it started before I bought it then I can contact the shop to get them to do something about it hopefully!

A If you purchased the oak dresser only one year ago and noticed the infestation several months ago then it is almost certain that the infestation was in it when you purchased it. There is a very good chance that the infestation is that of Lyctus brunneus - Powder Post Beetle. Check this by rubbing the bore dust between your fingers - if it is talc like it is Lyctus. We believe you are probably within your rights to reject the dresser.

The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended) says that goods must be:
a)     of satisfactory quality
b)     fit for their purposes, including any purpose mentioned to the seller
c)     as described

If the goods are not, the consumer has the right to reject them and get their money back, provided they do so within a 'reasonable time'. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances - so unsatisfactory goods should be rejected as soon as possible. If the defects were pointed out or they were noticed before purchase and the purchase still took place then there is no come back under this legislation. You should of course take professional legal advice on this matter since we are not legally qualified.

Think about it and have a word with the shop. If you hit a barrier you should take legal advice and you may be covered for this with your house legal protection insurance.

Adjunct to question: We were informed that following our advice the shop did replace the dresser.


Antique woodworm

Q My 400 year old wooden chest appears to have dry rot (small piles of dust appear frequently under the feet and on closer inspection nearly a quarter of two of the legs is now missing). What could be the cause and who could I contact to provide the cure (I live in London).

A It sounds very much like your chest has woodworm - not dry rot. Download the identification manual from our web site to make certain. Buy some woodworm treatment and brush it on but not on to painted or varnished surfaces. If in doubt consult an antique dealer what is the best course of action to take.


Indian woodworm

Q I can hear a clicking sound coming from the base of my wooden wardrobe, and I also had a small pile of sawdust in the same area. Could this be woodworm and is this the clicking noise I am hearing?? Thanks for your help.

A If you look directly above where the small pile of sawdust accumulated - is there a hole in the wood above this point? If so then it is likely that you have some form of wood-boring insect. You do not state how old your wardrobe is but if it is relatively new it is not unusual to have "foreign" wood-boring insects imported into this country in wooden furniture. The only wood-boring insect in the UK that makes a knocking noise is Death-watch Beetle but this is usually found in old, partially decayed oak so this would be
unlikely. Another "audible" wood-boring insect found in the UK is House Longhorn Beetle, the larval stage of which is sufficiently large that one is able to hear the munching noise as it chews through the wood! This would be unlikely in furniture. Out of curiosity could you let us know if it is a relatively new piece of furniture?


Q Many thanks for replying. The wardrobe was purchased last year  and was made in India; apparently it is "Indian Rose Wood"?  So it is a fairly new piece. I have purchased some treatment yesterday and heard no clicking overnight so hopefully it may have eradicated it.


More Indian woodworm

Q We purchased a dining table & 6 chairs made from Indian Sheeham wood 2 yrs ago. The chairs are upholstered with leather and the only visible wood is the legs. One of the table supports, a large panel, shows signs of an active woodworm infestation and 3 of the 6 chairs have sawdust falling from the seat padding. We removed the undercover from the seats to find these were also infested but we cannot treat the wood that is covered with leather. Do we need to replace these chairs? They were expensive but we'd rather eradicate the woodworm altogether rather than risk infesting the rest of the house.

A We suggest that you consult with Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor as you may be able to reject the furniture since it is not fit for purpose. It is very likely that the infestation was in the wood when you purchased the furniture but without knowing what insect it is one cannot say with certainty. Try having a word with the shop - it may have happened before and they may have an exchange policy. From what you describe it does not sound like it would be possible to treat 100% effectively.


How do we prevent woodworm transfering to our furniture?

Q We have just moved some antique furniture into a rented house. Some of the existing furniture in this house shows signs of woodworm. How can we prevent it transferring to our furniture? People have suggested wrapping legs in cling film etc. will this make any difference? Any preventative cures would be appreciated.

A It is not certain but it is likely that the infestation you are seeing evidence of in existing furniture is historic. Do not panic. Woodworm is just as likely to fly in a window or be carried in on your clothes so wrapping legs in cling film would be of little benefit - what about the rest of the piece? The only effective preventative measure you are able to take would be to treat all of the unpainted/varnished surfaces with an insecticidal preservative containing 0.2% permethrin. Ordinary woodworm, Common Furniture Beetle has a three/four year life cycle so even if wood was infested this year (2009) you would not know about it until 2012/2013.


Woodworm infested painting

Q We bought an 18th century painting on wood panel about 8 years ago from the art action in London. The back of the panel looked like infected significantly by woodworms many years ago but treated. Just recently we have noticed a dust on the side of the panel, not around the hole, but in the small crack in wood. Our questions - can it be old dust that we did not notice? Is it possible after so many years all this insects became active again? Or is it definitely a new infestation (although we could not find any evidence of beetles at home)

A It would depend what form the dust takes as to whether or not a wood boring beetle is responsible for its presence. When looked at under a magnifying glass does the dust contain lemon shaped pellets and is it gritty? If not then it is not 'regular' woodworm - Common Furniture Beetle - which has a three to four year life cycle and is the time before a hole in the wood's surface and dust would appear. Do you think you could have dislodged some old frass (dust) from some of the old flight holes in the backing? Bore dust will always be present in old chambers and can be dislodged and knocked out.

Old infestations do not become active again. The round holes you see are where adult beetles have emerged after three/four years - not where they have entered. If new holes are present a new infestation is present and a female is capable of laying up to 80 eggs. It is not often that woodworm beetles are observed in the home and with respect a lay person may not be able to correctly identify the type and significance of a beetle observed if one were found. Are you able to identify a common furniture beetle? If the wood panel was correctly treated then a new infestation is unlikely but then knowledge of any treatment is we suspect limited. Hope the above mumbo jumbo is of assistance!


Indonesian woodworm

Q I bought an antique wooden bowl in Indonesia last November and I can now (last two months) see small holes of very different sizes (less than 1-3mm) and thin short tunnels from the wood worm though there is no dust. I have sprayed the bowl with a general purpose woodworm spray (Rentokil) but I am worried that the woodworm will fly or crawl into other wood in my house. Most of the other wood in my house is new wood (Ikea wood kitchen top and new wood oak flooring as well as a bit in furniture). Am I at risk of having wood worm throughout the whole house and having to treat it, if so do I have to throw out the bowl? I don't want to as its quite beautiful but I don't want to risk having to treat the whole house.

A There are many different types of woodworm in this country and it would appear you have brought back in your wooden bowl an Indonesian type of which there are probably hundreds different to our own native ones. Are you certain it is antique and not a 'reproduction' antique as it would be unusual for a genuine antique to have a new infestation? It is very likely that the infestation is an insect that is only able to survive in a particular type of wood. Each woodworm type has very specific requirements to enable it to complete its life cycle. Treating it if it is polished or lacquered will have little effect as penetration of the preservative is prevented. Do not panic about the rest of the house as the chances of an Indonesian insect finding a mate in the UK are pretty remote! One option is to put it in a sealed plastic bag and if it will fit put it in your freezer for a week. This is likely to be effective but we take no responsibility for any damage that might occur to the bowl. Alternatively put the bowl in a sealed container - not wood or cardboard, and check it in twelve months time. Assess its condition at that time.


Woodworm in a mirror frame

Q A while ago we found woodworm in the frame of a newly purchased modern mirror hung in our bathroom. We returned it to the shop and had a refund. However some months later we have discovered woodworm in a wall cabinet in the same bathroom but on the opposite side of the room. We know that we will have to treat this or throw it away! Our main question is; How does the woodworm travel and how quickly, as we have another cupboard, wooden floor and there is of course the door to the bathroom and the skirting which is also wood. Do we need to treat all of these? Also how likely is it to spread through the house?
A There are many different types of 'woodworm' and the lifecycle of each varies. If we suppose the woodworm found in your wall cabinet is that of the Common Furniture Beetle, Anobium punctatum, then the life cycle for this insect, subject to conditions, is three to four years. Therefore if you saw the exit holes in the cabinet for the first time this year (2009), it was actually infested in 2005/2006 - long before you purchased your new mirror. If the mirror was new then it is likely to be imported but a similar length of lifecycle for what ever the wood borer was in the mirror is to be expected.

'Woodworm' is a general term for many different types of wood boring beetles. As they are a beetle they are able to fly and this is how they spread. They are just as likely to fly in through an open window or doors so do not panic just because you have a couple of pieces of infested furniture. Do not go around blasting everything with an insecticide - it probably will not be necessary.


Has woodworm in yard broom spread?

Q Recently discovered a Wooden Yard Broom in my garage absolutely covered in active woodworm holes (they were not there last August). My concern is that next to this broom is a stack of Chipboard Loft panels which I am intending to put in the loft as soon as it gets warmer. They have been there since July last year. I normally treat all timber I use with a preservative but not chipboard and MDF. My concern is the emerging beetles will have laid eggs which obviously I do not want to transport into my loft. Am I correct in thinking that unlike Plywood, Chipboard and MDF will not support woodworm? If this is correct how long should I delay putting the panels in my loft to ensure any eggs that may have been deposited on them have died?

A In over 35 years I have never seen woodworm common furniture beetle (CFB) in chip board. I have also consulted with a colleague whose experience is similar but it might happen. We believe the glues used during manufacture make it unattractive for egg laying so your risk is very small indeed. As the CFB lifecycle is three/four years you would have to wait this long to see if it has been infested but if I were you I would just lay it - there was probably much more attractive unadulterated wood to infest in your garage!

Many thanks much appreciated. Someone should come up with a sacrificial material which would attract CFB to reduce infestations. I suppose one of those Blue lights used to electrocute flying insects in restaurants etc. could have a similar effect.

What you suggest has already been invented. They are pheromone traps which attract CFB for them to be 'caught' by a sticky lethal lure. They never really caught on, only had a limited life and a limited area of efficacy. The flying insect traps are of limited value for wood boring insect control. If you invent something let us know!


Clicking noise from bed?

Q Hello - I hope someone can help - we are experiencing an audible clicking noise which we think is coming from our wicker bed frame (which was dry stored in a garage off the ground for two/three months). We live in Hertfordshire, it happens soon after we go to bed - i.e. when all is quiet, and if we move to try and find it or turn a light on it infuriatingly stops! It also starts again in the morning, often loud enough now to wake us up. Obviously it being in a bed frame makes me not want to start liberally spraying chemicals around. My question is - what is it likely to be? The bed is new'ish, so assuming some kind of treatment preventing woodworm, house longhorn beetle - wrong county? Could it be a wasp? Some other Larvae? Help!

A It sounds like (forgive the pun!) - the main frame of the bed is infested with a wood boring insect, especially if the bed is reasonably new. What it is likely to be would depend where in the world the bed came from. To be able to hear it means it is largish, possibly longhorn family. Treatment is only possible if the wood is bare and not painted or varnished. Modern water based treatments do not pose a problem of smell etc. so do not be put off by this. Treatment applied now is unlikely to kill off any larvae present in the timber as they are deeper in the wood than the preservative penetrates. The adult has to emerge through the treated surface for it to work - treatment applied now is therefore unlikely to stop the noise. If the bed is new (under a year) we would suggest that you take it back to the shop and reject it under the Sale of Goods Act. Ask for a replacement or your money back.


Infested Giraffe!

Q I hope you don't mind me emailing. On visiting Gambia last August we bought a large wooden giraffe for our new house. We have since moved into the house and I have discovered small piles of dust below it. On closer examination I noticed small little holes on the giraffe. I have seen on two occasions what looks like a small cockroach in the bedroom. I have thrown the wooden giraffe into the garden and will burn it but I am terrified that those creatures are now going to infest my new house. Could you give me some advice or reassurance please?

A Without knowing the type of wood boring insect involved it would be difficult for us to offer any advice.  Different wood boring insects require different conditions, i.e. freshly felled timber, seasoned timber, hardwoods only, softwoods only, etc.  It is probable, but not certain, that a wood boring insect native to Gambia is unlikely to find conditions suitable for propagation in the UK. Another point for consideration is that the lifecycle of wood boring insects found in the UK is anything between two and ten years. In other words eggs laid on and in timber today will not emerge from the wood as adult insects until two to ten years later and it is only when they emerge that an infestation is known to be present. Sorry not to have been much assistance but I hope that the above information is of use to you.

Contact Peter: Email - info@dampdecay.co.uk - Telephone: 015242 71794