“Woodworm are not actually worms at all, but the larvae of wood boring beetles” my daughter politely informed me, as I stood just inside the door to our garden shed.
“It depends on the type of beetle, as to how long it spends eating the wood” she continued, absently flicking through a well-thumbed copy of ‘Woodworm Problem’ by Norman Ernest Hickin, lent to us by a well-meaning neighbour.
I looked down somewhat dejectedly at my beloved garden hoe. I am adamant that the ash handle, smoothed by years of patient weeding had been perfectly OK when I’d put it away in the shed last autumn.
But now there are sprinklings of small round holes down the handle, with crisp sharp edges that I’m sure I’ve never seen before.
Leaning the hoe against the side of the shed I took the book from my daughter and sat down on the grass to read what more Norman Ernest Hickin has to say me about the signs of woodworm.
Sadly the answers aren’t too encouraging for my poor hoe. It seems that some types of wood boring beetle have a taste for hardwood (i.e. seasoned oak, elm, sweet chestnut) like the grand sounding Death Watch Beetle or the Powder Post Beetle. The Common Furniture Beetle however, isn’t particularly fussy when it comes to the type of wood it eats, including the ash handle of my hoe.
The Common Furniture Beetle will also infest more than just wood handled tools – wooden instruments, flooring, paneling, skirting boards even structural timbers can be affected by these pests.
The adult beetles emerge from the wood between May and October through what are known as ‘flight’ or emergence holes, leaving very fine bore dust (or frass) below the infested timber. By the time the adult beetles appear, the woodworm larvae will have been eating away inside the wood for several years. When it comes to the Common Furniture Beetle it could be anywhere between three and five years. The adult beetles will then mate and lay eggs for the next generation.
I don’t recall seeing any beetles inside my shed, but to be fair I haven’t really been looking for them among the rakes, pruning shears, watering cans and compost.
Leaving my hoe deliberately in the garden, well away from the oak floorboards and grandfather clock in the hall, I nipped into the house to fetch the tub of beeswax polish. I then set about covering the hoe handle in beeswax, (a helpful tip from the book) ensuring every hole was filled, before carefully placing it at the back of the brick and concrete garage instead of the wooden shed, away from anything vaguely vulnerable.
I shall keep my fingers crossed that when I return to check on my hoe, there will be no fresh holes, but if there are I’ll be straight down the garden centre searching out the woodworm spray and waxing up the grandfather clock just as a precaution.