Extra-Extra, Read All About It – Wookie Under Attack
When Wookie came back from the Pacific Seacraft factory in December, I noticed small powder droppings on the fancy new cushions just beneath the recently manufactured v-berth lockers. My initial assumption was residue left over from the work done at the factory remained in the lockers. As the boat had not been cleaned before it was shipped I set about giving it a detailed scrubbing.
Hours were spent vacuuming, wiping bilge and lockers before I set about varnishing the interior. For a couple of months, the cushions were removed as I sanded and varnished. When completed, the interior shined.
At last, I finally had that long awaited opportunity to enjoy a shot or two of single malt out of my new scotch locker. To just sit, sip at my drink and gaze about in blissful satisfaction.
Needless to say, I was surprised when once again a fine white powder appeared in the same place on my cushions. I assumed I had not cleaned this area well enough and so emptied out the lockers before attacking in earnest. This time extra effort was made to vacuum all the fissures carefully.
Two days later the powder appeared. Annoyed and a little concerned, I stared at this in disbelief.
Reality finally dawned on me that there was something living in my locker. I touched the powder and it felt soft and silky; like baby-powder.
Hours then went into researching what creature created this. After using the web, talking with several carpenters, home supply company and even a local fumigating company I felt I had identified the culprits. I further confirmed my assertions with a lovely PhD at the University of South Florida whom I now refer to affectionately as my “Bug-Lady”. In hindsight I should have started with her. Not only was the glass of wine more enjoyable, but before I finished my long drawn out sentence she grinned and said, “Chris, you have POWDER POST BEETLES”.
Powder From The Beetles Below My Lockers
The Dreaded Pirates Attack
As per my research in various publications – these beetles commonly infest seasoned sapwood of hardwoods and softwoods. They attack lumber, cabinets, and furniture. They enjoy re-infesting, and the females usually lay eggs in the wood from which they emerged. The larvae typically follow the grain of the wood when feeding and fill their tunnels with wood frass. The frass is a fine powder which to me feels and looks like baby-powder.
Bottom line……… these bloody pirates were literally eating my cabinets right in front of my eyes. As I lay annoyed under my lockers I imagined dozens of creatures enjoying a feast between the layers of my beautiful teak.
I had to attack these buggers and quick. There was only one option — declare WAR! To assist in my task, and to keep up my sense of humour, I envisioned each and every one of these pests looking like Bluebeards crew. Here in Wookie’s bowels I would single-handedly clear the oceans of this menace.
As to be expected this was a lot easier said than done.
Attacking The Enemy
Based on what I discovered the best time to attack these buggers is before one treats the wood (note I had already varnished my lockers). Infested wood that is unfinished (unvarnished or not sealed) can be treated with Tim-bor or Boracare. The eggs and coming larvae will come in contact with this insecticide to kill them. Basically they eat this powder rather than the wood.
Infested wood that can not be treated with these products can be treated in fumigation chambers. — YAH RIGHT !! —- This would mean dismantling my beautiful new lockers. Furthermore, due to its long life cycle (12-18) months in the wood, these beetles could emerge once more even after treatment.
None of the options given to me seemed sensible. However, recognising I was no expert in this field, I did get some Boric Acid (in a powder puff type container) and lined the joints of my lockers with this poisonous stuff. Truly a nasty job, which I did several times. After a week of living around this nightmare I finally vacuumed up all the powder and cleaned my lockers.
Lining Locker Joints With Poison
The next day what I saw horrified me. There was frass everywhere. It looked like these pirates realizing this was poison decided to eat their way deeper into the wood to get away from it all. They were basically building their own nuclear bunkers.
In desperation I reached out to Pacific Seacraft via email (twice) to ask if they had any recommendations and also to warn them their wood could be infected. Sadly they never responded. I went back to carpenters and a pesticide company and their advice was to remove my lockers.
A Sailor Contemplates
At this stage I decided it was time to review the facts and fall back on some old fashioned bush tactics. The issues with the recommended poisons was that they were only effective if the wood was not treated. What all this meant was my old wood in Wookie was safe as it had countless coats of varnish. It was only the wood in the new lockers that were my problem.
Somehow I had to try and find where these buggers were. I got a magnifying glass and small safety pins and set about looking for the telltale holes as per the images on the top of this blog. To my surprise I found these and each time I did I inserted a pin. I actually pushed the pin in hard and when it came out I felt moisture on the end……the satisfying demise of a pirate at the end of my sword.
Safety Pin Fashioned As A Weapon
The next step was to decide how I was to insert poison into these holes. I needed something to apply with pressure. I asked my lovely Bug Lady what type of poison would kill these buggers if they were accessible. The eureka moment came when she said any “insect repellant” would work.
The Sailors Solution
My solution proved to be quite simple. Take a can of hotshot, aim it straight at the hole and spray. Have a paper towel handy to wipe off the residue. Then let it all dry overnight. I repeated this three days in a row.
To my surprise there were no more powder deposits. What was great about this is that it did not ruin my varnish. I waited a full week before giving my lockers another coat of satin varnish. Once dried I installed my locker doors.
Its now been a month and I have yet to see any powder.
Lockers Installed Once More And Varnished
I normally would not write about the extermination of a few bugs on the boat. However, as the only advice I had received was to remove my lockers I felt it may be worthwhile sharing this adventure. This may be a plausible option if any should have the same problem. The final point I will make; if using a whole can of hot shot for an hour or so you may want to wear a breathing mask. I did feel queasy when finished and my Bug Lady did point out several thousand brain cells were probably also exterminated. My only comeback……….at this age I did not need all of them.
Continued: March/April 2018 Pesky Pirates Attack Again
This time I aggressively attacked the infected areas as per the above solution.
Soaked the wood with bug spray for several days
I hope it works…..sadly this may become an ongoing process every 4 to 8 months. None of the bug experts have had any solutions.
This time Pacific Seacraft did respond (kind-of) and they recommended that I heat the interior of the boat to 120°F or 50°C as a “big maybe” solution to killing these pesky creatures. Not sure on the viability of this solution because of what this excessive heat will do on other things in the boat.
They did recommend cedar spray which I use as I like the smell and it does soak up the wood. This may prove to be a viable solution in addition to Hot Shot.
I am on my own with this battle.
August/September 2018 Pesky Pirates Attack Again – Time For The Experts
It finally became obvious that my attempts to eradicate this menace were not successful. It was time for the experts.
I called my bug terminators – “Safer Home Services”
Jim visited Wookie and after inspecting the pin holes and some of the frass residue concurred it was powder post beetles. He also concluded it existed in the new cabinetry only. His recommendation was:
- Seal up Wookie “tight”
- Apply a cylinder of Vikane gas and leave this in the sealed boat for 24 hours. He suggested a high quantity of Vikane so as to eradicate this issue permanently.
- After opening up the boat air it out for 24 hours.
Vikane is a gas at temperatures above -67°F. Vikane is packaged in white cylinders as a liquid under pressure, containing 99.8% sulfuryl fluoride (125 pounds per cylinder) with no other pesticides, solvents or additives. Vikane has a high vapor pressure; it evaporates 20,000 times more readily than mothballs and therefore disperses rapidly throughout structures during fumigation. Vikane does not react with building furnishings or contents, including computers, electronics and manufacturing equipment. This is why fumigation with Vikane is an established method used to eradicate pests infesting delicate and rare preserved biological and historical museum artifacts (see Table 1). Vikane does not form toxic surface residues, so dishes, clothes, cooking utensils, equipment and other items do not need to be washed following fumigation with Vikane.
Unlike liquid and solid insecticides, Vikane is a gas possessing a very high vapor pressure (potential to escape from an area) and low boiling point (it is a gas above -67°F). During aeration of the fumigated structure, Vikane will quickly diffuse from high concentrations within a structure to the outside air where it rapidly dissipates to nondetectable levels. The relatively small amounts of Vikane released are calculated to have virtually no impact on the global atmosphere and environment.
Wookie Sealed Tight And Gassed
THATS IT FOLKS – PIRATES ARE DEAD
A special thanks to Jim and his team for the professional manner in which they sealed Wookie (by the way, they took their shoes off when aboard and only used “blue” tape to seal).
— AND —
To Pacific Seacraft who paid for this fumigation.