What's eating Townend?

The is what woodworm poo looks like! © National Trust / CvH

The is what woodworm poo looks like!

One of the big threats to the furniture and the building at Townend is woodworm.

Not too long ago we did survey to find out just how bad the situation was. The report wasn’t happy reading: nearly 40% of our furniture needed urgent treatment to avoid loss or irreparable damage. As a result we have taken various different measures this year to safeguard our collection.

A bug's life

The larvae of the furniture beetle can live in our lovely oak furniture for up to five years. Then, when they have grown into furniture beetles, they gnaw their way out, leaving tell tale little holes in the furniture, and also some 'frass' - which is a mix of wooddust and larva 'poo'. Once they have mated, the female lays her eggs in crevices in the wood and when the eggs hatch a few weeks later, the little woodworms eat their way into the wood and the cycle starts again. This constant eating severely damages our furniture, weakening it from the inside.


To stop the woodworm eating our furniture,local furniture specialists, Peter Hall and Son have sprayed or painted a special insecticide kills the woodworm larvae. It is a water-based insecticide which is very safe to use in historic environents. One of the active ingredients is related to Chrysanthemums, which have been used for centuries as an insecticide.

Cleaning chimneys

As part of our fight against woodworm, we have also cleared all the chimneys.

Most of them have not been used or cleaned for years. Even though they are capped, there was a huge build-up of twigs and dust due to years when birds tried to build their nests inside.

We removed up to six binbags of dust, twigs, rubble and even some bird skeletons from the chimneys. Many of the twigs had little woodworm holes in them. Cleaning the chimneys will also increase ventilation, which also helps to keep the woodworm under control.

We will continue monitoring our pest traps and furniture for any more signs of furniture beetles, but with good housekeeping, they should remain under control.