Pest Problems

Many antiques – especially ethnographic decorative artworks – are food sources for insects. Regularly monitor your environment for dead insects and droppings. Search atop and beneath wooden objects for “frass” – a powdery substance left by burrowing pests. Insects bore in wood to lay eggs and - when they hatch - new insects bore out. Because many antiques have bore marks from prior years, the presence of holes alone doesn’t indicate active infestation. Instead, ongoing assessment should differentiate old, harmless holes from those needing attention.

If you find signs of active insects, immediately isolate the infested antique from other objects by wrapping and sealing it in a plastic bag. Avoid bug sprays; their chemical compounds can damage material. While fumigation is the best route, be aware that fumigators and fumigation methods aren’t identical. Many treatments “overkill” the infestation, destroying the antique along with the insects. Luckily, larger extermination companies often feature antique-specific divisions.

Though not a topic for the squeamish, the presence of rodents can also pose problems. Traps are preferable to poison, as a poisoned rodent’s carcass often ends up in hidden areas like walls. This invites insects and, when done with the rodent, their next target may be your valuable objects.

 Giltwood frame damaged by infestation. The wood substrate is entirely "eaten up" causing the frame to break apart and presenting great consolidation challenge for conservators.

Giltwood frame damaged by infestation. The wood substrate is entirely "eaten up" causing the frame to break apart and presenting great consolidation challenge for conservators.

 Detail of insect infested antique giltwood frame with maximum deterioration of wood substrate: empty spaces where the substrate is entirely gone

Detail of insect infested antique giltwood frame with maximum deterioration of wood substrate: empty spaces where the substrate is entirely gone

 The example of extreme damage to antique furniture wood substrate caused by the activity of boring insects

The example of extreme damage to antique furniture wood substrate caused by the activity of boring insects

 The magnification of wood with the presence of holes and "frass” – a powdery substance left by burrowing pests

The magnification of wood with the presence of holes and "frass” – a powdery substance left by burrowing pests