You’d think that, after the house renovation, we’d be excited to decorate. But, no. We’ve gone spartan and utilitarian. And, especially, we’re avoiding wood ornaments because of a previous experience with wood-boring beetles.
To begin with, I’m not really into decorating. I like playing with space, colors and textures, but when it comes to anything purely ornamental, I pass. That’s why you won’t find curio cabinets in my house nor knick knacks. I’m just not into those things.
But, ten years ago, when I saw these sculpted solid wood sun figures, complete with laughing faces, I melted. I saw them at Tiendesitas on a day when I was looking for a table lamp, I forgot all about the table lamp and spent quite a while haggling with the stall owner.
See, I could already imagine the set of laughing sun figures above the front door, or maybe above the double French doors that open to the lanai, or even on the corner post of the living room. The natural wood stain was just perfect for the warm colors of the living and dining areas.
So, I haggled. There were three pieces, in graduated sizes, and they were individually priced. All three cost P1,800.00 but since I can be such a bully when haggling, I was able to get all three for P1,000.00. I kept them in a plastic bag inside a cabinet until I could get someone to drill through the concrete walls to put up hooks.
When I opened the plastic bag to take them out a week or so later, powdery stuff came out. It was in the wood.
I lost interest in the laughing sun ornaments. Speedy later took the largest piece and hung it on the trunk of the mango tree in the garden.
What’s the powdery stuff? A friend said back then it might have been caused by wood-bearing beetles.
What are wood-boring beetles?
There are several species, apparently — woodworm, common furniture beetle, longhorn beetle, wharf borer, false powderpost beetles, powderpost beetle…
But, based on the powdery stuff, the kind that infested my beautiful laughing sun decor was powderpost beetle.
These beetles are called powderpost because the larvae produce a characteristic fine, dust-like frass with the consistency of flour or talcum powder, as they feed on the wood and bore the tunnels. This distinguishes them from other types of woodworm.
The adult females lay their eggs on the surface of wood or in cracks. The life cycle ranges from three months to over one year, depending on temperature, humidity, and the nutritional quality of the wood.Rentokil
How to avoid powderpost beetle infestation in your home
Powderpost beetles need 20% moisture in the wood to survive. So, the best way to avoid them is to make sure that any wood or wood product you bring into your house has been kiln-dried.
If the wood had not been dried, even if varnish or paint is applied to it before you purchased it, the powderpost beetles might already be in the wood. And this is probably the case with the laughing sun ornaments because, yes, they had been varnished. They looked immaculate when I bought them but it took only a week from the date of purchase for the powderpost beetles to damage the wood like that.
Buy wood products from reputable establishments
When we refurnished, we bought solid wood furniture. But we bought them from reputable establishments and we know that the wood had been properly dried before they were manufactured into furniture.
How did we know that the wood that became our furniture had been properly dried? I asked. At the shop where we bought the solid acacia wood frame for the dining table, the sales lady even described how long it takes to dry wood from the time the tree trunk is cut to the time the wood is ready to be manufactured into furniture.
So, there. Beware! Just because solid wood is less likely to be damaged by termites doesn’t mean it cannot be damaged by other pests.
Updated from a post originally published on June 18, 2009.