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Reclaimed timber and bugs

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pooka

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Just thought I'd post a word of caution here to anyone looking to get hold of reclaimed timber. A few weeks ago I brought home some MDF from my workplace, which had been used as shelving units but which was destined for the skip. This was from an office building that had been unoccupied for a few months, and the MDF was stacked in the parking area for a few days before I collected it.

I brought it home, brushed it down (although it was mostly very clean already), and stored it in the hallway temporarily. A few weeks later, I noticed what looked like dust on the lid of a water jug in the kitchen, and beside where the splashback tiles met the counter top. My wife was on the ball though and immediately identified it as tiny "critters". On closer inspection, we found them appearing to come out of the extractor fan and up from behind the kitchen units. By 5am that night/morning, we had put all opened compostible foodstuffs in the compost bin, and many less-than-airtightly-sealed herbs, sugar, and flour went in the bin - we washed down every surface in the kitchen too, inside and outside of the cupboards. By the following morning (well, a couple of hours later really), the critters were back - in lesser numbers, but definitely back.

We were unable to identify the critters ourselves (Internet searchs with phrases like "f*&!ing numerous critter type things" yielded surprsingly few results!), so we called in an exterminator. He immediately identified them as book lice, and said that he often encounters them all over old books and also things like newly delivered packaged wooden flooring. They thrive on mildew and mould, are all females, and develop from unfertilised eggs (more info here) - basically they are a pipper to get rid of with just a j-cloth, disinfectant, and swear words. Fortunately, they are not harmful to humans or pets. He dosed every room in the house with insecticide, and earmarked my workshop and the MDF as the likely source. We have to leave the insecticide in place for 6 weeks, ideally (one week of that is left now). The cost of the exterminator was, ahem, a little more than it would have been to buy new MDF in the first place :oops:

So, basically, this is a longwinded way of stressing the importance of carefully cleaning down any reclaimed timber you get your hands on (although, book lice could also come in on newly bought wood I guess, depending on how and where it is stored, and I guess book lice are only one of many possible hitchhikers). Oh, the joys of being an environmentally conscious woodworker!!
 

Alf

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Crumbs. :shock: Thanks for the warning, pooka. Funny, I'm now feeling extraordinarily itchy for some reason...

Cheers, Alf
 

pooka

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Alf":2zpnwiss said:
Funny, I'm now feeling extraordinarily itchy for some reason...
I have only stopped staring at the countertops, through a magnifying glass, in the last few days. I can't seem to stop myself from exploring every inch of the water jug each time I use it though, but when it comes to my porridge oats I just close my eyes and hope for the best each morning! :)
 

Duiker

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I had these pippers in my larder some months ago. It took a complete clean up, dumping loads of food and keeping everything in sealed tins and tupperware (no food, no bugs?) not seen them since so keeping our fingers crossed.
You have my sympathy and my wife is still fearful of the "weasels" (Dutch and didn't quite get the "weevils")
 

mahking51

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if you have large critters and small critters and are hungry, eat the small ones as they are the lesser of two weevils...

I'll get me coat!
Martin
 

pooka

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Duiker":26lmrn8b said:
I had these pippers in my larder some months ago. It took a complete clean up, dumping loads of food and keeping everything in sealed tins and tupperware (no food, no bugs?) not seen them since so keeping our fingers crossed.
You have my sympathy and my wife is still fearful of the "weasels" (Dutch and didn't quite get the "weevils")
We now store most things in airtight containers too, which is probably not a bad idea anyway, but apparently it may not be that useful when getting rid of book lice. Eliminating all possibe sources of mildew and mould should do the trick, I believe, but getting behind every built-in kitchen unit is just not feasible. The link that I posted above talks about reducing the relative humidity to eliminate them entirely, but that too may be easier said than done. It also mentions putting any contaminated food into the freezer to kill them off, but clearing the corpses off, or out of, the food could be tricky. They might be small critters, but they sure cause a lot of grief :cry:

Funnily enough, my wife spoke to the exterminator (a guy in his 40's) about his work and it turns out that he moved to the anti-critter industry only a few years ago, as he was sick of his previous career. He loves his new job, apparently, and couldn't be happier. It was funny because I had been speaking to my wife earlier that day about changing career (to woodworking) and wondering how many people successfully changed career after a significant number of years of their existing line of work. Mr. Exterminator seems to be a bundle of joy and optimism for those of us considering a serious change. :D
 
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