Are Woodworms in the Kitchen Dangerous?

Woodworm is a common term for the larvae of up to twelve families of wood-boring beetles. Woodworms are dangerous to your safety, home and furnishings, which makes it critical that you prevent and control infestations, starting by identifying the insect involved.

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Dangers

Depending on the wood-boring beetle or beetles present in your kitchen, any wood in your floors, furnishings, kitchen tools, walls or structural support are at risk. Moreover, the problems are not limited to your kitchen. The insects can spread throughout your home. The appearance, value and usefulness of affected wood is compromised and structural failure can result with a heavy infestation.

Identification

Identify the insects at work, as insects other than woodworms also bore into wood inside and around homes. Knowing the type of beetle present will help guide your treatment efforts. The affected wood gives numerous clues to the identity of the larvae inside, so note whether softwood, hard wood or both types of wood show signs of woodworm. Check the size and shape of the holes present and the type of frass -- a mixture of wood and excrement -- found in conjunction with the holes. According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, some beetles live for decades as larvae. Some types reinfest, others don’t.

Monitoring

Look for new holes in your wood. These are sharper, paler and may have fresh, powdery frass present. Other signs of infestation include tunnels and the sound of chewing from within the wood. Holes mean adult beetles are coming out of the wood and may be looking to lay eggs. Monitor your wood during warm weather, as the adults are more likely to bore out at this time. Unfortunately, some types of pests don’t have to leave the wood to breed and lay eggs, and by the time you see holes in your furniture, the damage-causing beetle larvae may have been present for several years.

Prevention

Depending on how lumber is handled, woodworm may or may not be present when you purchase raw wood or wood items. Ask for kiln-dried or chemically treated wood for structural use, but also inspect all wood items before you bring them into your home. Moisture levels of 15 percent or less in wood keep furniture in good condition and prevent development of woodworm, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, so control indoor humidity levels. Humidity may be higher in kitchens and bathrooms. Paint and varnish wood surfaces to discourage fresh infestations. Keep wood for wood burning stoves out of and away from the house until it is needed for use.

Treatment

Treatment for woodworm is complicated. Some products kill only the emerging beetles, while others kill the worms still inside the wood. Some kill current larvae, but don’t protect against future infestations. Several types of treatment are available, ranging from pesticide applications to heat treatment, cold treatment and fumigation. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension warns that pesticide treatments are best left to licensed pest control professionals who may be able to inform you of the approach that best fits your problem. Repairs must be completed before treatment. Bore holes must be sealed to prevent future infestations. In some cases, the infestation may be severe enough that replacement of the wood is necessary.

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