Believe me, you never want to encounter this tiny pest. It makes a hole about 1/16 of an inch round, but it will excavate and destroy far, far more than that. Add the rest of their family to the party and you will be one unhappy cabinetmaker.
Bastogne, Or Paradox Walnut, And The Infestation
I recently moved from California to Northeast Ohio. I have a stash of super cool wood that I have plans for when I can ever get to building some of my dream projects. One stash is a species sometimes referred to as Bastogne. You might recognize it by a less marketing oriented name, Paradox Walnut. Paradox, because it is a mule of a tree – a natural crossbreed of claro and English walnut, it cannot reproduce so it is rare. And it is unusually beautiful.
I had plans to make nested tables from this, with solid wood legs, aprons, and veneers for the top. It would barely be enough. But it seems I brought a little pest with me during my move, the powderpost beetle. I first noticed it while on a ladder moving some of my stash around and I saw tiny piles of sawdust, or “frass” as it is known to the initiated. Having lived in California for 24 years, I was familiar with the wood trail left by termites and felt the same dread when I saw those little piles. So I cleaned them up and waited a few days. To my dismay, the piles had returned and I knew I was infested, but by what?
It didn’t look like the frass of a termite, rather, much finer, so I did some research and found the Wikipedia page for powderpost beetles. Among the description there was this, “They are considered pests and attack deciduous trees, over time reducing the wood to a powdery dust.” Great, but how to get rid of them?
I tried this:
It says, “Professional”, so it has to be good, right? Well, maybe my fault was in the application. The damage caused by beetles is hidden, all you can see is what are called, “shot holes” in your wood, tiny round holes about 1/16″ in diameter.
So, I mixed up some Tim-Bor in water and doused everything I could douse over several days. It had no effect. Those little piles of sawdust persisted. Probably, the air inside the holes prevented the penetration of the deadly poison liquid, but I didn’t have any magic to overcome that, so I got radical.
I sliced off the smallest piece I thought might contain those dastardly critters. It worked, but not right away. Look at the cut edge:
Seems I had not quite gotten all of the damage, but it was close enough that I could excavate and find those little bastards. Using a small dental-type pic and a utility knife I cut away all the punky wood inside those traces. It’s more like a very hard packed powder.
And finally found a few of these:
That is a powderpost larva. That is the culprit, maybe an eighth inch long.
He and his friends did this to my beautiful wood:
I let the wood sit for a week or two and saw no further signs, no piles of powder. I won, but I lost. I no longer have enough wood for my project so I will have to imagine another destiny for this beautiful bastogne, or paradox walnut, whatever you call it.