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Bark Beetles

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Hello, I am new to this forum and this is my first post. I cut some dead limbs from birch trees in my backyard. After stripping the bark, I found interesting patterns made in the wood, apparently from bark beetles. Some of the limbs are strong enough to make walking sticks, but I am concerned that there may be some form of beetles hiding inside. Have any of you used bark beetle wood? Do you recommend any treatment? Thanks.
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Welcome to the forum. I like your moniker!

If the branches have been dead a long time then I don't think you have much to worry about. I have used insect damaged hardwoods, hickory, oak, maple etc. Once the tree or limb dies the borers move on to a live host.

If the limbs haven't been dead long and you are concerned, you can also place the stick in a plastic bag and fumigate with an insecticide, seal the bag and put out in the sun for a couple weeks. Between the insecticide and heat in the bag your insects should be toast. I did this to a couple sticks I suspected were harboring carpenter ants.
Thank you MJC4. I think these limbs were recently damaged, so I will follow your advice for treatment.
I use a heat gun and go over the entire stick. Length of death doesn't necessarily = lack of critter. I've had some long dead wood still harbor beetles. Be careful not to burn the wood/bark. Black plastic in the sun doesn't get hot enough usually to really take care of the problem.
How long do you heat the stick with the heat gun? The sticks are typically about 5 feet long and 1.5 inch diameter.
I pass over 6-12 inches at a time, turning the stick in my hand for about 1-2 minutes. Keep it moving to keep it from burning. When there are beetles, its usually a bark-off situation so I don't have to worry about bark burning. If you are keeping bark on, you have to work smaller and slower. The wood should be too hot to touch for too long aiming mainly for the pin holes.
Thanks, that sounds easy enough.
I worked at an art museum. Sometimes there would be a hatching from antique frames that had been in storage for years. Part of my job was to check for the small piles of wood dust that might be seen on the floors of the vaults. Likewise old wood sculptures.

I have several sticks that have interesting bug marking, but have become very cautious about what i put in my garage. I found one very nice looking stick that had been laying on the ground, but looked pretty fresh. I cut a section, and put it at the end of my seasoning row. When I went to look a few weeks later, I found it covered in "sawdust." I pitched it immediately, and wrapped and fumigated all the sticks near it. So far, no repeat.

I've decided that there are enough potential sticks without problems that I'll pass on any that I find that look suspicious.
You probably had powder post Beatles in the museum.
Interesting experience gdenby. Presently, the birch sticks are in a small shed in the back yard. I am keeping them away from some good cherry sticks that are drying in the garage. You make a good point about there being enough other sticks without problems.
Emerald Ash Borer, Bronze Birch Borer, Pine Bark Beetles, Ambrosia Beetles, Carpenter Ants, Termites, the list goes on and on. As we collect sticks and saplings live or dead we have the potential to invite unwanted visitors to our homes and property.

I have a barrel full of sticks in my garage that we have collected as we walk through the woodlands and forests.

Sticks that are obviously infected we leave behind. But, how do you know the stick you have harvested is pest free?

This thread has got me to thinking. In future am going to start fumigating all the sticks I harvest. Something killed the tree or stick I harvested, do we really want to chance loosing our trees to pests we brought home?
Why I usually cut/dig good healthy saplings :)
One thing to think about if you chemically treating, by any process, there will most likely be residue in the wood. Even after some time. And it will be in the saw dust when you cut and or sand it. Be aware of the what you are using and be sure to practice good dust control when working wood you or any one has treated.
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I can understand the attraction of the patterns in the bark ,but do you really want to infest you own woodstock with such things and may even pass the pest onto healthy trees,. dieases can contaminate and spread quickly please be careful.We have a problem with ash tress its killing a large proportion of these and there is no cure .the only solution has been to burn infected trees.

They are trying different varietys of ash to try and find a resistant one but irts a serious problem here
Thank you cobalt. I am glad I found this site. You all have given me several good responses to my first post. I hope I can return the favor in the future.
JJireh, unfortunately we are limited to where we may harvest our sticks, digging up or cutting down healthy saplings in the county or state forests we walk in is frowned upon by park rangers. We will continue to have to collect downed wood and carefully inspect it for pests. I wish I had access to more private woods to harvest sticks in but our area is becoming more and more urbanized. Woods I hunted game in when I was a youngster are now subdivided. The only bright spot is as woods are developed for housing projects much of the woods understory (saplings and brush) is cleared and piled up for chippers. If a fella gets there first lots of good stuff to be had.
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Thanks for the suggestions for getting rid of these little pests. They have virtually destroyed some of my sticks that have been curing in my shop. But I have even used three or four sticks that had been infested after assuring that they were gone... And the integrity of the stick had not been jeopardized. Here's one that I used, and I think it came out pretty good.


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Beetles only eat the cambium layers (thus why they are very destructive to live trees) so stick integrity is rarely an issue. If you have a severe infestation I'd recommend a bonfire and start over. Keep an eye on dust piles around the storage area, as soon as you see them find the sticks and treat them or destroy them. As cobalt said, we don't want to be ground zero for Emerald Ash borers or such critters.
I have done a lot of research on this and have tried several things.

Here is what I found...

The wood must be heated to a minimum of 150 degrees F. to kill the larvae.

I will put smaller pieces in a paper bag and microwave them for a minute at a time until the wood is uncomfortable to hold.

Larger/longer pieces need a steam tube or some kind of enclosed box and a heat source.

I am working on ideas for a larger box because I have some beautiful sticks that I need to save at all cost.

Borax is supposed to work by drying out the larvae and it is abrasive enough to their digestive system that it kills them from the inside.

I am going to try mixing borax with water and use a syringe to inject it into the holes and tunnels.

I know people who use insecticides and other harsh chemicals and don't worry about the dust.

But I have contacted the companies that make the stuff and they have said that it should never be used this way.

"Absolutely Not" was used quite a bit in the conversations.

I can understand some saying to just destroy the sticks and don't take the chance.

But I can't do that to a really nice stick if I can find any way to save it.

I hope this helps someone.


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