This Collections Care document has been produced by our Conservation Development Officer, Helena, to provide suggested step by step methods to treat woodworm.

Image of furniture beetle / woodworm

If you aren’t sure how to identify woodworm, then keep reading…

If, on the other hand, you know this critter on the left is boring away in your collections then download our resource which gives you a step by step guide to treat woodworm.

It’s smaller than a grain of rice, and a dusty chocolate brown. Seen up close it has rows of tiny dots along its back and it looks as though it’s wearing a rather large cycle helmet. It might sound innocuous, but it has the power to arouse fear in the most stalwart of museum folk.  It’s Anobium punctatum, the furniture beetle, often called woodworm.

Most of the time the young woodworm grub, like a small white caterpillar, is munching its way through the wood of some prized museum object or even the timbers of the building itself, but from late spring onwards the adults emerge, chewing small holes about 2mm in diameter and look for mates.

If the museum store is undisturbed, especially if the relatively humidity is a bit high, you may find them crawling around on the surface of objects when you first put the lights on. Sometimes you will find the adults caught in sticky blunder traps or dead on windowsills. Sadly, by then they may have already mated and laid eggs in the holes in the object. Soon the tiny grubs will hatch and crawl deeper into the wood, tunneling their way around, always staying below the surface, for as long as 5 years before they pupate and emerge as adult beetles.

So, what do you need to do?   If you find holes in your wooden, basketry or wickerwork objects don’t panic, but do investigate further:

  • Are the holes fresh and bright looking inside or dull and dark? New exit holes will be clean and bright and need action.
  • Is there grainy wood dust falling out of the holes or in little piles beneath the object? The dust or frass (droppings) can fall out of old holes when the object is moved. If the holes and dust look bright or there are little piles, then the infestation is recent and needs action.
  • Are there little dark brown beetles in the area (dead or alive)? Then you need to take action.

Download the below resource for step by step guidance to treat woodworm