tiny insect in wood statue – beetle or termites?

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hi, i bought a beautiful carved wooden animal from Oaxaca mexico that is painted with wonderful designs and I now see that every day there is white powder coming out of it. i now see that there are teeny little holes so it looks like there is some kind of bug in there.  i tried putting it in a plastic bag for a few months to see if i could stop the oxygen but nothing works.  i would love to be able to save this beautiful painted carving.  is there anything i can do that would not destroy the painted finish.  is there anything i should do about the fact that it has been sitting out and i may have infected other areas of the house. any recommendations would be appreciated.

It sounds like you have some kind of wood borer living in the piece and not termites. Borers will produce a powder when emerging; termites will expel droppings that are like pellets and not a powder. As our Powder Post Beetle article explains, there are several species of insects which eat wood. Larval stages (little worm like maggots) chew through the wood to get their food requirement. Once this requirement is met, they will pupate to adults and emerge. In most cases, the emerging adults will create a fine talc like powder that will be visible alongside the infested piece of wood. There will also be small exit holes through which this powder came.

There are two treatment options for this problem. One would be to inject some Baygon into all the holes you find. This is how furniture which gets infested can be treated and the same approach will work for hand carved wood statues too. If the piece is small, this might do the job quickly. If the piece is large, you might getter better results with the Jecta Gel. This product can be applied through the bottom of the piece into holes you can create by drilling into the base and then filling it with the Gel. Over time the Gel will permeate to throughout the wood and once the wood is completely treated, all the feeding larva will die.

In both cases there should be no impact on the finish or the piece except the damage caused by the infesting bug. Get rid of the pest and the piece should be savable.

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