Woodworm Hunters

Now is around the time of year when pests start emerging and flying around once they have hatched and eaten through the wood that eggs were laid. This means that we are extra vigilant when opening and closing the house for any insects that we may see, so that we can identify problem areas.

Recently, we have noticed woodworm lurking in the state bathrooms. This meant an investigation was needed! We didn’t want any infestation (if there was one) to spread to any more of the state rooms.

Woodworm that we collected earlier

Woodworm is the universally known name for the Common Furniture Beetle. People know that woodworm are around and in their houses when they see the familiar woodworm holes (see the photo below).

Woodworm holes

Woodworm can also be known as bookworm (in addition to other paper boring insects), as seen in one of Nostell’s library books, above.

Holes can be present when the woodworm are active or whether the woodworm are not there any more. The way that we can tell is by seeing if there is any frass around the holes. Frass is the sawdust that is the by-product of the beetles chewing their way through wood.

If you look carefully you can see the small piles of frass which indicate the presence of active furniture beetles.

Today we were checking underneath the bath in the State Bathroom for signs of the pesky insect.

Underneath the bath – it has been a long time since anybody looked under here, if the dust is anything to go by!

And it’s not surprising why, as the sides of the bath are solid marble and had to be taken off professionally!

We found what looked like frass and a few dead furniture beetles. However it seemed as though the beetles we had found were coming through the floorboards elsewhere in the room. Further investigation will be needed, and possible professional conservators brought in.

Just to be sure, we treated the area to ensure that no woodworm would emerge from the areas where we found the dead beetles.

Another interesting task encountered by the conservation team at Nostell Priory, and indeed National Trust properties all over Great Britain!



Pests, Glorious Pests!

If Charles Dickens’ Oliver (of novel, musical and film fame) were to sing the song ‘Food, Glorious Food!’ inside Nostell, I think it would be more appropriate for him to sing ‘Pests, Glorious Pests!’ Rather than wax lyrical about hot sausage and mustard Oliver would be singing about carpet beetles and silverfish. Instead of asking for more, he’d be praying for less! Enough of the comparisons for now, today’s blog post focuses on the not-so-glamorous world of pest monitoring (or IPM, ‘Integrated Pest Management’).

Nostell uses small black plastic pest traps, although there are a great variety of traps to choose from, including cardboard blunder traps and moth pheromone traps. They have a sticky sheet of card inside which pests stick to, which allows us to record numbers and see if we have any infestations. Luckily, Nostell is a generally good house with few pest worries. (Fingers crossed it will stay that way!) The pest traps are found in every room in Nostell, and are placed in areas that little beasties like to hide, for example in fireplaces, next to walls, and under beds.

Fireplace pest trap

Pest trap next to a wall

We check  the pests traps every three moths (I mean ‘months’ – a Freudian slip!) to ensure that no pests go unnoticed.

Stacking up the little black boxes to see what creepy crawlies (if any) are stuck inside

Depending on whereabouts in the house they are, some pest traps get absolutely filthy, so we give them a clean before putting them back where they were. It’s really important that they go back to the exact same location, so that we can develop a realistic picture over the years of where problem areas are.

We use this wall chart to help us identify insects. If it’s not on the chart, it’s probably not a pest (but it’s always best to check with a conservator if we’re not sure)

These are the sticky part of the trap which catch the pests. The sticky pads are replaced once we have recorded the pests, and the old sticky pads are disposed of.

A selection of critters on one of the traps in the Peacock Bedroom. Moths, spiders, flies, silverfish – this was actually one of the more full traps, as around a third were empty (which can only be a good thing)

The public enjoyed seeing us open some of the pest traps – the one above in particular made a little girl exclaim ‘you have the worst job ever!’ but then after I had talked to her about the work we do, she changed her mind to saying ‘it’s actually quite exciting to see the bugs!’ 

Flies in the Grey Bathroom

Record sheets, pest traps, plans of where the pest traps are located, spare sticky pads, the list of pest monitoring equipment goes on…

Julie records how many little beasties are inside one of the pest traps

We enter all of the information we find into a spreadsheet, and send it to our conservators, who analyse the results and look at patterns of insect infestation (if there are any) in Nostell’s rooms over the years

We hope you’ve enjoyed entering the world of bugs – it’s one of the least glamorous jobs we have to do, but surprisingly fun!


Bugs, Pots and Wood


Housekeeping Training Blog Post No. 1 One of the questions conservation assistants are frequently asked is ‘how did you learn to care for the objects in your collection?’ A lot of our knowledge and skills is acquired by on-the-job training and conversations … Continue reading