Dealing with woodworm and other infestations
In today's world of synthetic and man-made materials, nothing comes close to the elegance and polish of wood. Solid hardwood is still a preferred flooring material so are soft wood for some of the most beautiful home furniture. There is no material that emanates warmth and a certain old world feel than wood.
On the downside, wood is susceptible to a lot of stresses. Wooden structural components are most likely to succumb to dry rot and wet rot when duly exposed to moisture. Wood furniture is easily dented, scratched and burnt too. In general, wood, treated or untreated are vulnerable to infestations of insects and woodworms.
What is a woodworm?
A woodworm is not a worm that plies on unsuspecting wood. It is a popular collective name given to a variety of wood-eating beetles. However, the name woodword is mostly applied to powder-post beetles. Woodworm burrows inside warm and wet wood to lay its larva. The larva then eats it way out of the wood that could take from 1 to 7 years as it takes the same amount of time for a larva to turn into a pupa to a full-pledge adult beetle.
The tiny holes that are evident on a piece of wood are sure signs of woodworm infestation. An adult beetle that has been bidding its time inside the wood emerges from it leaving holes (and powdery residue) as its exit point. The mature beetle then mates and lays its eggs on new cracks and crevices on wood thereby repeating the cycle.
What are the different kinds of woodworm?
There are different kinds of woodworm common in the UK.
- Powder post beetle are reddish brown to black that are found in timber yards. It prefers starchy wood with big pores for the female beetle to lay its eggs. This specie is more commonly found in timber yards and steer clear of painted, treated and varnished wood.
- Common furniture beetle is collared brown and has a monk's hood dorsal. This beetle prefers damp floorboards and old furniture and has a peculiarity to sapwood. It is hard to tell if a timber is infested as it takes up to four years for an adult beetle to exit from its burrow.
- A deathwatch beetle is called such because it makes tapping or ticking sound at night. This beetle is usually found in decayed wood preferably one with wet rot. The larva is tunnelled in the decayed wood so there's no way to tell if there is actual infestation.
The larvae of woodworm can eat its way through floor joists, wood beams and rafters. The damage is not only on aesthetics but also structural. The infested wood may look quiet unaffected but if inspected on a closer views, it is possible that the interior part of the affected wood has been eaten away. It is best to spot woodworms from the month of May to September. This is the time that woodworm exits from the host wood to mate. If you notice tiny uniform holes on wood surfaces and there is suspect of wood infestation, block the holes with an emulsion compound or put masking tape to deter the woodworm from entering again. If the holes are disturbed in the future, then there is definitely wood worm infestation. If there is powdery dust around tiny dots on wood, then there's probably woodworm infestation too.
Treatment for Woodworm
Note that not all woodworm infestation is harmful so it is best to identify the type of beetle has infested your wood. To do this, it is best to solicit the advice of a qualified pest control person to inspect, identify and possibly eradicate and control the infestation. If the damage to integral parts of the structure is massive, consult a timber specialist.
There are four available options in treating woodworm infestation.
- Surface treatment
- Spot Injection
Surface application of pesticide is a first option. There are chemicals that are effective in the eradication and control of all hole-boring insects. Most of these chemicals can act three ways: insecticide, fungicide and wood preservative.
Fumigation is a second treatment option. This option is the best route for eradicating deathwatch beetles as this specie is usually embedded in large structural timber. A tent fumigation is the best method for the total eradication of woodworm. The whole exterior of the house is draped with tenting to hold in the gases inside the tent. After the tent is secure and all safety precaution checked and done, the poisonous gases are then released to envelope the whole structure. The house to be fumigated should be vacated by all living things: people; plants and pets as the gas will kill them. Food and other items in the list to be given by the exterminator should be taken out of the house too. This type of treatment is quite expensive but highly effective for even pests like mice, cockroaches, termites, dry rot, and mosquitoes will be exterminated.
Spot injection of pesticides on infested timber would also work well in treating deathwatch-infested timber.
Freezing would only work well on small items like furniture. The infested furniture is taken to a walk-in-freezer with sub-zero temperature to kill the woodworm.
It is best to get the services of a qualified pest exterminator when you plan on using chemicals for the infestation. Woodworm is preventable if you follow certain procedures.
- Maintain your wood well-ventilated and at a low level of humidity. You can do this by keeping your house well ventilated. If humidity is high, use a humidifier to regulate the moisture content of the interior.
- Don't hesitate to throw out infested furniture if it's beyond salvage.
- You can use simple electric fly traps in areas that you suspect have woodworm. The electric fly trap will be able to kill instantly any beetle emerging from the hole.