Termites, Carpenter Ants, Powderpost Beetles in Furniture
Insect damage in furniture can cause real damage but be treated and repaired, but do not let it go unattended since they may just be dormant.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN YOUR FURNITURE?
Finding a fly in your soup is an insult, but finding wood infesting insects in your furniture is a call to arms. There are three types of critters to be concerned about: termites, carpenter ants, and powderpost beetles. There are solutions!
They are the sneakiest and most destructive of these three insects. They cause serious structural damage because they feed on the cellulose found in wood. They are mostly subterranean that nest only in the ground, but can rapidly travel 30 to 40 yards to above ground feeding sites. When moving toward wood to feed upon they construct mud like tunnels up the foundation. All termites are social insects that live in colonies. They like to emerge during daylight after a rain or lawn watering of the area, swarms, and congregate around windowsills or other light sources. They leave little signs of existing since their leave their residue inside their tunnels in the wood.
They also nest only in the ground, in dead trees, in firewood and if the conditions are right in the home’s structure. They feed on protein sources such as other inserts or sweets; and like warm wet areas. When nesting in wood they construct irregular galleries that run with the grain of the wood. They remove wood with their mouths and kick it out. Unlike termites, they keep their galleries very clean and smooth, so external “dust” might be found.
The name comes from the extremely find flour-like fecal matter, called “frass” that is pushed out of infested wood by the emerging beetles. Adults are attracted to light and are generally brought into the home in wood that contains their eggs. They attack only hardwoods and prefer porous wood such as ash, oak, mahogany, maple, walnut, bamboo, wicker, etc. These do not include home construction woods like pine or fir. They chew to within ¼” of the wood surface and prepare small chambers. The exit holes are usually 1/32” or 1/16”. Infestations die out on their own as conditions change in the wood. Overtime the sapwood contains less starch so they move on to other sources. They love moisture, humidity, and warmth; all commonly found along southern coastal areas.
Controlling Powderpost Beetles:
Small items heated in a kiln or frozen in a freezer with rapid temperature changes does most of the killing. Large items will require fumigating. Proper fumigating will kill all insects then present. Methyl bromide is the preferred chemical. Bora Care is safer, but less strong. Large items might be put inreally large plastic bags, like from new mattresses, with the chemical added. Follow directions for safety, or use a professional exterminator’s services.
Painting or sealing the wood will prevent it from becomes infested if all pores are plugged thoroughly, but it will not control an ongoing infestation.
Credit is given to Phil Pellitteri in his article, same title, Fine Home Building Magazine April/May 1990.
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