Wood Boring Beetle Larvae in a Log Cabin, or One Man’s Decent into Madness.

A few weeks ago while sitting at the table, I heard a quiet tapping or scratching sound high up on the wall behind me.  I discounted it at first, thinking that perhaps it was merely the wind blowing something up against the cabin.  We do have some bamboo wind chimes hanging from the porch in that corner of the cabin, so it was certainly plausible.

Of course, after a day or two when the sound resumed, always in the same spot, I took more note of it with less disinterest.  Eventually it became clear to me that it was a scratching/gnawing sound, and not merely the wind.  Donna agreed.

I assumed a mouse had somehow gotten in behind the paneling that Papa and I had installed only a month ago.  I baited a trap with peanut butter and placed it in the attic directly above the spot where we had heard the gnawing.  There was NO WAY a mouse could ignore that delicious treat!

So, after a few more days of increasing agitation at the sounds, and no tampering with my mousetrap, I began to think more along the lines of an insect infestation.  This wasn’t a happy thought.

Finally, one evening with the gnawing becoming so loud it could be heard throughout the cabin, clad in my long johns, I climbed out the second floor window onto the porch roof and trod over to the spot where I could hear things.  I couldn’t hear anything from outside, and there was no sign at all of insect or animal entry.  Back inside I moved the futon and set up our ladder so I could gain pinpoint accuracy as to the location of things.  I narrowed it down to a spot between two boards.  I banged hard on the wall, and the sounds stopped for just a few moments, then resumed with greater ferocity.  Internally howling with anger, I came down the ladder and told Donna that if she didn’t buy insecticide the next day, I certainly would drive to town to do so on my own, and that I half intended to go into town that very moment (9pm ish) to purchase it myself.

Right above that knot was the spot where these emanations were coming from.

As a very unwanted side effect of this, I found myself being short with Kenny in my answers and demeanour.  I didn’t like this AT ALL.

The next night when Donna returned with some Pyrethrin, I carefully drilled a hole between two panels, so as to be virtually unnoticed.  Then I inserted a straw and blasted a good dose of the stuff between the panels.  The chewing ceased, and I became more positive.

Of course, the next morning, the sounds were back.  I blasted another good dose, and waited.

That evening, the sounds were back.  I was getting frantic.  I blasted again, and waited until morning.

No sounds!  Yeah!  Donna and Kenny headed off to attend a homeschooling event, and I sat at the table for my breakfast.

I was rather crestfallen to suddenly hear the gnawing resume behind me again.  The world around me got wavy and took on a reddish hue.

A test run with scrap boards to see if it was possible to remove one “in situ”.
Carefully marking my area of operation.

I returned with my circular saw, and carefully cut a vertical line from one edge of the panel to the other, being careful not to nick the panels above and below.  Then I cut a horizontal line along the panel, and finished up with a Japanese draw saw.  The panel fell out from the wall and revealed…  No sign of insect damage within the wall itself.  Odd.

No signs of anything in here!

I examined the panel itself more carefully, and noted that it had considerable wain to it (bark left on a finished piece of wood).  After really scrutinizing the piece, I saw there were some entry holes on it and sawdust accumulated within them.

Grandpa arrived about then, and I showed him my discoveries.  He suggested submerging the boards in water to see if it would drive out the culprits.  I loved that idea and did it right away.

I can see some entry holes and sawdust…  No sign of the pests yet.

Sure enough, white larvae appeared within the hour.  I let them soak a further hour, and I’m not ashamed to say I took a morbid glee in drowning them.  The sounds had ceased.

There we are!  Ugly critters, aren’t they?

I shook out the larvae on my outdoor work table, and decided to leave them for the birds.  I was amazed to come back a few hours later and see them wriggling around.  Tough little buggers!

How can you still be alive?!

I decided not to close up the wall right away, but instead blasted more of the insecticide in the cavity to deal with any potential problems.  I used the dose recommended for an entire room inside each cavity.

The next day, more gnawing.

More gnawing = more board surgery :(.
Now I’m across two studs and into three cavities!

I marked the board further along the wall and removed yet another section.  Sure enough, there was more bark on the back of this board.  I decided to not replace the board just yet.  Instead, more insecticide.

This stuff is making me feel woozy, why isn’t it killing my bugs?!

The next day, more gnawing.

The last piece of that board – surely they can’t be hiding here too?

I only had a short length of board left that ran into the corner of the cabin.  This piece amazingly wasn’t nailed in in the corner (probably no strap there to hit), so I was able to slide it back and forth.  I slide it to the middle of my gap, and was able to actually pry it out without having to cut the tongue off.  That was cool.

Of course, there was a tiny bit of bark on there.  But hardly enough to hide a larva!  I took it outside and using a slot screwdriver, managed to pry off the bark, and sure enough, two more of the white monsters fell out onto the table.

Ha!  There was one of you in there!

Another sneaky devil!

In for a penny, in for a pound…  May as well scrape all the bark off!

They were quickly flicked onto the lawn, and I again sprayed down the whole cavity with insecticide.  I question if that stuff works on bugs in their larval stages, but who am I to know for certain?

The next day, no more gnawing!

For over twenty four hours I kept the gap open and listened.  I thought maybe I heard some more sounds from elsewhere in cabin, but by then my insanity had broken.  These little buggers were probably only interested in the layer of wood just beneath the bark, and when they ran out of that, I didn’t think they would do any more damage.

Time to make it look nice again.

I replaced the short board that I could just wedge into the gap, then cut a new board to replace the ones I had sliced in half.  The new board I did remove the tongue on, and tacked it with a single nail to a strap.  It is barely noticeable, and I’m not losing sleep over it.

The biggest takeaway from this lesson is that perhaps it doesn’t pay to reduce your standards while choosing lumber.  Seeing bark on the non exposed side of the panels didn’t cause my any alarm while installing it.  I didn’t see how it could matter.  Now I do.  I suppose that one should rely on the fact that it was kiln dried to have taken care of these things, but maybe it doesn’t kill the eggs?  Or I just got a particular tough batch?  Anyway, it’s hopefully dealt with, and I can resume obsessing over other things. 

Barely anything to show how much turmoil this board caused.

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