Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HELP! THE WOODWORMS ARE COMING...

Furniture Beetle Larva
"The table in our dining room has white powder on top of some tiny holes," said a friend who called a few days ago. "Last week I wiped the table thinking the white stuff was oatmeal splatter from the kids." My response: "Take the table out to the garage. You have woodworms and they're contagious."

In the over 50 years I have been looking at antiques, I have never seen live, active woodworms--just the holes left behind. Woodworms are a major problem. They can live in a table for eight years before they hatch. This particular table was brought over from France two years ago. Any wooden antique you bring into your house could eventually be a source of woodworms.
I rushed to my friend's house. With fresh new sawdust on the table, I reasoned there must be fresh new worms nearby. I crawled under the table and found a 1/4-inch white worm inching its way across the floor--a furniture beetle larva. My friend's kids thought this was a great game and found their mother 10 more wiggly worms.

There are four kinds of beetles that leave sawdust mounds. All are very destructive. They eat furniture, floors, books, and papier-mache. Their favorite is wicker, including wicker baskets. Look for powdery sawdust on the floor, inside drawers, or (as in our friend's case) sticking to table legs. The cure is difficult. Use a bug spray made to be used for wood-boring insects. Follow instructions, but first check in an inconspicuous spot because sprays may discolor wood. Repeat the treatment monthly for two years. As a last resort, call an exterminator.

27 comments:

Richard LInks said...

It is good to warn people about this hazard. This is especially true in the case of bringing back wooden carvings from African sources.

It is certainly not a new warning, but in serious cases, pieces need to be fumigated in a special chamber. One cure is to expose the item to paradichlorobenzene, which is (as far as I know) exactly what moth balls consist of.

There is much information available regarding the treatment for wood worm or woodbore infestations and yes, it can easily spread to other 'tasty and tantalizing" wooden treats in your home, so beware!

Richard Links
Berkeley, CA

Anonymous said...

Yup, get that infected piece out and as far away as quickly as possible. Broke my heart to destroy a fabulous petite cupboard, circa 1780, that was perfect for my circa 1750 house. Worse, the dealer knew, mentioned offhandedly: it might have a few bugs. What a nightmare! My piece had something the exterminator called powder post beetles. Never saw activity, just piles of dust from it. There was nothing to be done. We put the piece under a tarp in the far yard til winter was over. Took the tarp off in spring - there was very little left except the hinges. A staggering lesson! The exterminator also said that he'd encountered similar problems with wood items brought in from China, so be aware and forewarned. We learned the hard way.

Anonymous said...

If possible or practical, put small items in a plastic bag and place in the freezer for a few weeks. I've done this with success on wood items I brought home from Central and South America. Also, I had a small vintage trunk with woodworms - it spent a winter in my unheated garage in upstate NY...by May the worms were gone. I can't imagine using a toxic spray every month for 2 years!

Anonymous said...

I live in Arizona and shortly after we moved in our new home our custom cabinets that I had requested be made to look antique like(worm holes and other distressing) suddenly started having a powderey substance showing up in certain areas. I would wipe the areas clean and then the next day the powderey substance was back. After contacting numerous pest control companies with no answer to my powderey substance. I contacted an entomologist at ASU and described my problem. His answer was powder post beetles. I recontacted our pest control company and told them what the professor had said and they informed me that powder post beetles can be worse than termites. The larva or eggs can be found in wood such as old barn siding, baskets from foreign countries, old wood, equiplex furniture from Mexico and antiques. I have antique furniture, lots of wood cabinets and wood floors throughout my home. We couldn't take a chance with all the wood in our home so we had to have the pest control people tent our entire home. We had to move out for four days and the pest control people opened up large canisters of poisonous gas in our home that obviously was deadly to humans but killed the powder post beetles. It was extremely expensive but necessary and we have had no problems since. However, any antique piece of furniture I purchase and bring into our home I negotiate with the dealer to have the piece taken to a pest control company and have it fumigated. Needless to say I do not buy any baskets made in foreign countries or furniture from Mexico.

Anonymous said...

For years we sold in our gift shop antique masks from Africa. We also sold wood carvings from Mexico. We were told by a long-time importer friend of ours that if we ever spotted dust like you described that we should put the item in a freezer. We did this several times and it works. We left one wood carving that was rather large in the freezer of a friend who ran a restaurant. We wrapped it in bubble pack and it was totally separated from any food items. While I can't give you a magic number for the amount of time to leave the item in the freezer, (we left the carving in for two weeks) I can tell you it works. For a large table...now, that's another problem. Maybe a friend with a large, walk-in freezer! For small items, try the freezer. It will save many valuable pieces.

Anonymous said...

A good way to rid of woodworms (AKA powder post beetles) is to spread some powdered XX Mule Team Borax on to the table and make sure that the Borax powder gets into all the holes. Leave it there for about a week if possible. The Borax contains boric acid which, as it turns out, is a great insecticide which should not ruin the finish if it stays dry.

Bob, Cleveland, OH

Anonymous said...

I had a rocking chair made for my husband and found out that the wood had woodworms. I isolated the chair, and I used an organic spray that was recommended by a garden center. I used an insulin syringe and put the spray into each of the holes. I did this over and over until there was no sign of activity. I check the chair regularly so that I can "doctor" it, if I see activity. The chair s not in my house, so I don't worry about them getting into my antique furniture.

Anonymous said...

How weird!
I have never heard of these and will now watch for them. I do have quite a few wooden artifacts in the house.
Thanks for posting this warning!

Joy said...

Use an Environmental Pest Control Treatment that is safe for you, your family and the environment.
If you help or info please email me.

Bob Sivak said...

The only way I've heard wood worms can be stopped came through a discussion with Rick Jorgensen, at R. Jorgensen Antiques in Wells, ME. For at least 10+ years all "questionably" infected furniture gets either frozen or refrigerated for a period of time in their drive-in size, huge refrigerator or freezer.

A low enough temperature can apparently wipe out all adult worms and larva. An entomologist might know how long a cold treatment or freezing is needed to do the job thoroughly, perhaps at a cold storage company.

Bob Sivak

Connie , Dubuque, IA said...

I TOO HAD TROUBLE WITH THE WOODWORMS. I HAD PURCHASED PIECES
OF JOHN PERRY SCULPTURE WHICH WAS MOUNTED ON SEA DRIFT WOOD. THE DRIFTWOOD IN TURN WAS INFESTED WITH
WOODWORMS. TOOK ME ALL OF A DAY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT WAS LEAVING THAT PILE OF FINE DUST UNDER MY NEW
SCULPTURE. "WOODWORMS" I SPRAYED THE PIECE OF WOOD ONLY, TIED IT UP IN AN AIRTIGHT BAG AND LEFT IT FOR THREE DAYS. FOUND THE DEAD LITTLE BUGGERS IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG AFTER THE THIRD DAY. NEVER HAD ANOTHER PROBLEM, EVER. OH I DID OF
COURSE REMOVE THE SCULPTURE SO NO
HARM WOULD COME TO THAT. THEN JUST
RETURNRD IT TO IT'S PROPER PLACE
AFTER 3 OR 4 DAYS.

squibbit said...

A few years ago my daughter, a dancer, was horrified when she discovered woodworm holes in the wooden blocks of her pointe ballet shoes. She returned the shoes to the shop, who were equally amazed, and they contacted the manufacturers who subsequently replaced them.

Anonymous said...

I purchased some baskets from Africa and a year later had the powerdy dust described. The exterminator said he could do some spraying but he said the best remedy would be to place the pieces out in my shed for a couple of weeks (it was winter and I live in the Northeast.) I left the offending pieces out there all winter and I have seen nothing since - it has been over a year. Obviously not practical for people from warm climates but the freezing does the trick,

Anonymous said...

Had powder post beetles in a blanket chest bottom 20 years ago. Exterminator treated the basement wall of the farmhouse that they climbed to the second floor through (some evidence of in basement). No issues with the house again. I painted the chest with diazinone (nasty stuff, subsequently not available, which is probably good) and they never came back. I would have the table exterminated (and leave it to air in the garage for a month or two!)rather than spraying chemicals every week. Freezing sounds like a great healthy option if you can find a facility.

Anonymous said...

I was horrified to read about these woodworms as my husband and I have been treating an oak rocker (NOT an antique)for 2 years trying to figure out the problem. We thought it was termites, although we never saw any. They have eaten through an entire section of the back piece where the spindles attach, clear down to the wire springs! Thank you so much for letting us know about this. Out it goes into the shed for the rest of the winter! I'll be glad to let the little dickens freeze!
Ginny Coppedge
Spencer, Indiana

bluemlein said...

We lived in a large Victorian house in the country for five years. Near the end of our stay we began hearing the activities of the death watch beetle - Xestobium rufovillosum - as it began coming to life in the cellar!

And an armoire we had traded for another item was absolutely infested with the bored trails of one or another infestation, not woodworm but rather larger. This came to light when the old paper was soaked off the inside.


ALWAYS be careful with wooden objects.

Tharen John said...

Powder Post beetles AKA wood worm,

The dust or frass is created when the beetle emerges from the wood--at that point treating the holes has no impact.

Generally the infestation is a result of improperly stored wood. The adult beetles lay their eggs in the wood where they remain happly eating away until pupated they emerge and leave the holes and frass.

We eneded up with an infestation form a hard wood floor--the wood was improperly stored.

Lindane will treat the little buggers--find the adults which are elongated like a grain of rice (but smaller)and kill them.

I am not sure freezing will kill the buggers. A friend of ours here in northern wisconsin has a barn infested with them. The barn is not ocupied and freezes all winter long the the things make it thru.

Anonymous said...

I'm relieved to hear about these disastrous pests because I have been trying to find out what ruined my antique fainting couch and a small upholstered antique chair. They first appeared when my house had been closed up for a month during hot summer days while I was on vacation. When I came home I saw tiny black flying insects, about the size of small peppercorns, then discovered the holes in the upholstery of my furniture. There were "sawdust" piles under those two antique pieces of furniture. I think I traced them to some carved gourds (new) which have labels marked "Hand Carved in Kenya" and, of course, these have been trashed.

Since I cannot put my furniture in a freezer and there are no freezing winters here in Southern California, I keep a large container of a home insect killer handy and periodically spray those two pieces. But I don't think it is possible to kill all the larvae. I notice that in summer, during hottest days, is when new flying pests appear. I do believe I'm doomed to fight these awful imposters for the rest of my days (I'm 84 years old). But just thought I'd warn you that you may be fooled into believing cold winters will kill these insects.

Anonymous said...

I have found powder and small black bugs inside an antique curio cabinet that I have had for almost 6 years. The article and posts that are published have really scared me. Can someone list a extermination (by brand name) that can be used? Or am I better off getting rid of the furniture?

David Evans said...

Back in UK we had a rare piano with woodworm treated by Britain's most famous insect exterminators, who brought a sealed steel furniture container (a half-length version of the shipping containers you see on railroad cars) to our premises, where we loaded the piano and a number of other antique pieces into the container and they sealed it and filled it with fumigating gas for three days. We expected that would do the trick. Six months later more holes appeared in the piano. The firm dismissed my suggestion that their technique had failed and blamed a fresh infestation, despite the fact that nothing else in our home had an outbreak! Reluctantly, charging us a second time, they came and repeated the procedure. Once again, 6 months later, new fresh holes! The firm threatened to sue me if I told anyone that their system did not always work!

I have since been treating the piano with proprietory woodworm killer fluid, but have the feeling that it cannot be permanently eradicated by this method.

Museums use the microwave system to eradicate woodworm. It works very well without damaging the object, but you can't put a piano in a microwave either!

condenser said...

Back in UK we had a rare piano with woodworm treated by Britain's most famous insect exterminators, who brought a sealed steel furniture container (a half-length version of the shipping containers you see on railroad cars) to our premises, where we loaded the piano and a number of other antique pieces into the container and they sealed it and filled it with fumigating gas for three days. We expected that would do the trick. Six months later more holes appeared in the piano. The firm dismissed my suggestion that their technique had failed and blamed a fresh infestation, despite the fact that nothing else in our home had an outbreak! Reluctantly, charging us a second time, they came and repeated the procedure. Once again, 6 months later, new fresh holes! The firm threatened to sue me if I told anyone that their system did not always work!

I have since been treating the piano with proprietory woodworm killer fluid, but have the feeling that it cannot be permanently eradicated by this method.

Museums use the microwave system to eradicate woodworm. It works very well without damaging the object, but you can't put a piano in a microwave either!

Supermum said...

I suspect that the woodworm-infested barn would not meet the freezing criteria - in other words, that the bugs would had time to acclimatise to the cold. It seems to me that the best thing is to have a very sudden temperature drop which would not give them time to get used to it. So if you have cold winters, put the piece outside in -10 deg C after having in indoors at a nice toasty 20 deg C - hopefully that will do it. (I certainly hope so - that's what I'm currently doing with a recently acquired antique table that has new worm holes and dust visible.)

sandy said...

Please help!
We built a new home and moved into it exactly one year ago.
We had lots of problems with the contractor.
Moisture under the foundation due to the slope of our yard and front porch.
He did repair them..
Not long after we moved in I would see some long looking insect inside the pantry. I didn't even have much food and would find them in drawers that didn't even have food stored in them. Then I would see them in different rooms in the house.
Our kitchen cabinets were custom made and not the best they didn't put any finish on the backside.
We had picked a first quality hardwood floor out at Lowes. Our bulder told us there was a brand he liked better. I ask if we could afford it. He said if we got the cabin grade.
Since we trusted his judgment and him at the time this is what we picked out. The sample we were shown didn't look bad.
When they put it down it was there were lots of knot holes going all the way through the harwood.
It looked good and we had to just live with it.
Most of our furniture had been in storage for two years.
I have lots of old wooden pieces and most of them have been in the family. Several are east TN primative pieces.
I have owned them for over 20 years. Before I brought any of them into the house I left them in the garage until I could clean and oil each piece.
After seeing these insects in the house not long after moving then I started seeing just black looking dots on the baseboard and in every room.
These dots I would never see move but they would be every where. I taped some and took them to the university and with some body parts missing and being taped they could not identify them. These would even be on the sheets in our bed. If I mopped then walked over the floor with socks these black dots would be all over my socks.
I had to have people out to spray for black widows several times. They would be outside but close to the house and even on the front porch. I ask everyone about these black dots. I had not seen any of the alive bugs after the first couple of months. Everyone that looked at these dots said they were just debry. Often they would have the same shape. Our year warrenty with the builder was up about two weeks ago.
So I had three different pesticide companys out just to look at these dots.
Well I felt like some neurotic person when they said it was not a bug.
The last person came last week and now over the weekend I have had to burn four old pieces because I have seen holes and frass inside the hole.
I have looked over some other pieces and I keep finding holes on everything.
Some are big pieces and I don't understand how I could have owned them for all these years and never saw a powder post beetle and now I am finding these holes in almost everything I have looked at?
I also found a couple of boards in our hardwood floors that the knot holes were full of frass.
With our cabinets not having any finish on the back and this is where I first saw a live beetle would this be where they came from or would the hardwood floors?
Under our house is a crawl space and the floor trusses have something like a powder on them.
But they are made from a composite and are not suppose to mold and insect proof.
I don't know where to get help since everyone that came out didn't see a bug.
I think I must have been showing them frass because some of it is like tiny flecks of wood. Now I see the holes.
Does this sound like these were inside my furniture for over 20 years and now are comming out all at the same time?
Would it be this house?
Our trusses laid outside for a while before they were used and got rained on.
I am in desperate need of suggestions.
Please help.
Thank for listening,
sandy

sandy said...

Please help!
We built a new home and moved into it exactly one year ago.
We had lots of problems with the contractor.
Moisture under the foundation due to the slope of our yard and front porch.
He did repair them..
Not long after we moved in I would see some long looking insect inside the pantry. I didn't even have much food and would find them in drawers that didn't even have food stored in them. Then I would see them in different rooms in the house.
Our kitchen cabinets were custom made and not the best they didn't put any finish on the backside.
We had picked a first quality hardwood floor out at Lowes. Our bulder told us there was a brand he liked better. I ask if we could afford it. He said if we got the cabin grade.
Since we trusted his judgment and him at the time this is what we picked out. The sample we were shown didn't look bad.
When they put it down it was there were lots of knot holes going all the way through the harwood.
It looked good and we had to just live with it.
Most of our furniture had been in storage for two years.
I have lots of old wooden pieces and most of them have been in the family. Several are east TN primative pieces.
I have owned them for over 20 years. Before I brought any of them into the house I left them in the garage until I could clean and oil each piece.
After seeing these insects in the house not long after moving then I started seeing just black looking dots on the baseboard and in every room.
These dots I would never see move but they would be every where. I taped some and took them to the university and with some body parts missing and being taped they could not identify them. These would even be on the sheets in our bed. If I mopped then walked over the floor with socks these black dots would be all over my socks.
I had to have people out to spray for black widows several times. They would be outside but close to the house and even on the front porch. I ask everyone about these black dots. I had not seen any of the alive bugs after the first couple of months. Everyone that looked at these dots said they were just debry. Often they would have the same shape. Our year warrenty with the builder was up about two weeks ago.
So I had three different pesticide companys out just to look at these dots.
Well I felt like some neurotic person when they said it was not a bug.
The last person came last week and now over the weekend I have had to burn four old pieces because I have seen holes and frass inside the hole.
I have looked over some other pieces and I keep finding holes on everything.
Some are big pieces and I don't understand how I could have owned them for all these years and never saw a powder post beetle and now I am finding these holes in almost everything I have looked at?
I also found a couple of boards in our hardwood floors that the knot holes were full of frass.
With our cabinets not having any finish on the back and this is where I first saw a live beetle would this be where they came from or would the hardwood floors?
Under our house is a crawl space and the floor trusses have something like a powder on them.
But they are made from a composite and are not suppose to mold and insect proof.
I don't know where to get help since everyone that came out didn't see a bug.
I think I must have been showing them frass because some of it is like tiny flecks of wood. Now I see the holes.
Does this sound like these were inside my furniture for over 20 years and now are comming out all at the same time?
Would it be this house?
Our trusses laid outside for a while before they were used and got rained on.
I am in desperate need of suggestions.
Please help.
Thank for listening,
sandy

sandy said...

Please help!
We built a new home and moved into it exactly one year ago.
We had lots of problems with the contractor.
Moisture under the foundation due to the slope of our yard and front porch.
He did repair them..
Not long after we moved in I would see some long looking insect inside the pantry. I didn't even have much food and would find them in drawers that didn't even have food stored in them. Then I would see them in different rooms in the house.
Our kitchen cabinets were custom made and not the best they didn't put any finish on the backside.
We had picked a first quality hardwood floor out at Lowes. Our bulder told us there was a brand he liked better. I ask if we could afford it. He said if we got the cabin grade.
Since we trusted his judgment and him at the time this is what we picked out. The sample we were shown didn't look bad.
When they put it down it was there were lots of knot holes going all the way through the harwood.
It looked good and we had to just live with it.
Most of our furniture had been in storage for two years.
I have lots of old wooden pieces and most of them have been in the family. Several are east TN primative pieces.
I have owned them for over 20 years. Before I brought any of them into the house I left them in the garage until I could clean and oil each piece.
After seeing these insects in the house not long after moving then I started seeing just black looking dots on the baseboard and in every room.
These dots I would never see move but they would be every where. I taped some and took them to the university and with some body parts missing and being taped they could not identify them. These would even be on the sheets in our bed. If I mopped then walked over the floor with socks these black dots would be all over my socks.
I had to have people out to spray for black widows several times. They would be outside but close to the house and even on the front porch. I ask everyone about these black dots. I had not seen any of the alive bugs after the first couple of months. Everyone that looked at these dots said they were just debry. Often they would have the same shape. Our year warrenty with the builder was up about two weeks ago.
So I had three different pesticide companys out just to look at these dots.
Well I felt like some neurotic person when they said it was not a bug.
The last person came last week and now over the weekend I have had to burn four old pieces because I have seen holes and frass inside the hole.
I have looked over some other pieces and I keep finding holes on everything.
Some are big pieces and I don't understand how I could have owned them for all these years and never saw a powder post beetle and now I am finding these holes in almost everything I have looked at?
I also found a couple of boards in our hardwood floors that the knot holes were full of frass.
With our cabinets not having any finish on the back and this is where I first saw a live beetle would this be where they came from or would the hardwood floors?
Under our house is a crawl space and the floor trusses have something like a powder on them.
But they are made from a composite and are not suppose to mold and insect proof.
I don't know where to get help since everyone that came out didn't see a bug.
I think I must have been showing them frass because some of it is like tiny flecks of wood. Now I see the holes.
Does this sound like these were inside my furniture for over 20 years and now are comming out all at the same time?
Would it be this house?
Our trusses laid outside for a while before they were used and got rained on.
I am in desperate need of suggestions.
Please help.
Thank for listening,
sandy

Anonymous said...

Woodworms regularly arrive in the US today via reproduction Chippendale mahogany furniture made in Indonesia.
You can get rid of them thusly. If you have a closet large enough to contain the infested furniture, empty it of ALL contents. Place the furniture in the closet with the contents of two boxes of moth balls scattered on the closet floor. Use one box of whole round moth balls made of Naphthalene, and one box of mothballs made of Paradichlorobenzene flakes. SEAL the ourside of the closet with tape immediately after spreading the mothballs. Allow the furniture to remain in the closet for three weeks.
CAUTION:
1) Do not allow anyone with respiratory problems, the elderly, small children, infants or pets to remain in the house during treatment, or during the air-ing out process described below.
2) For added safety, close the door to the main room where the closet is located.
2) Use gloves when handling the mothballs.
3) Air out the closet immediately after treatment with the windows to your house open during the daylight hours, or anytime if you have screens (in order to prevent moths, etc from entering your home), referably during periods of low humidity. Do this for two weeks before storing fabric or papper items in the closet.
4) You might want to take a quick wiff of each type of mothball box before using, to determine if you have a sensitivity that would prevent your use of this treatment.
5) Read Wiki information regarding mothballs and toxity in humans and pets before treatment.
6) This treatment is primarily for wood items ONLY. Use of this treatment may cause harm to fabric as use of Naphthalene and Paradichlorobenzene together may result in the accumulation of moisture that could harm fabric. I've never experienced this, but the literature suggests this could occur.
7) The flakes will have disolved after treatment. Store the remainder of the whole round mothballs in a sealed container, and out of the reach of children.

Anonymous said...

Blog Author, please use this corrected version)

Woodworms regularly arrive in the US today via reproduction Chippendale mahogany furniture made in Indonesia.
You can get rid of them thusly. If you have a closet large enough to contain the infested furniture, empty it of ALL contents. Place the furniture in the closet with the contents of two boxes of moth balls scattered on the closet floor. Use one box of whole round moth balls made of Naphthalene, and one box of mothballs made of Paradichlorobenzene flakes. SEAL the outside of the closet with tape immediately after spreading the mothballs. Allow the furniture to remain in the closet for three weeks.
CAUTION:
1) Use gloves when handling mothballs.
2) Do not allow anyone with respiratory problems, the elderly, small children, infants or pets to remain in the house during treatment, or during the air-ing out process described below.
3) For added safety, close the door to the main room where the closet is located.
4) Air out the closet immediately after treatment with the windows to your house open during the daylight hours, or anytime if you have screens (in order to prevent moths, etc from entering your home), preferably during periods of low humidity. Do this for two weeks before storing fabric or paper items in the closet.
5) I advise taking a quick whiff of each type of opened mothball box before using in order to determine if you have a sensitivity that would prevent use of this treatment. If you do have an adverse reaction, cease use immediately and go outside into fresh air. Call 911 if the reaction is severe.
6) Read Wiki information regarding mothballs and toxicity in humans and pets before treatment.
7) This treatment is primarily for wood items. Use of this treatment may cause harm to fabric as use of Naphthalene and Paradichlorobenzene together may result in the accumulation of moisture that could harm fabric. I've never experienced this, but the literature suggests this could occur.
8) The flakes will have dissolved after treatment. Store the remainder of the whole round mothballs in a sealed container, and out of the reach of children. Again, Use gloves when handling mothballs.