It is certainly not uncommon for violinists to complain about their violin being uncomfortable or too big. However, we certainly would not advise allowing woodworm to eliminate this issue by devouring their way through the violin from the inside. Contrary to the name, woodworm are not actually worms but the generic name for the larvae stage of wood boring beetles. These wood boring beetles normally emerge from wood they infest between May and October so it’s essential for violinists to know to spot the signs of a woodworm at this time of the year.
Woodworm are attracted to humidity and wood. After mating, the female beetle will search for tiny cracks in wood such as a violin to lay its eggs. The eggs hatch to produce larvae and these larvae will burrow downwards into the wood and eat their way through the wood for anywhere up to five years causing significant structural damage in this time. As the larvae develop, it forms a pupal chamber where it enlarges the tunnel towards the surface of the wood and pupate into a fully grown adult beetle. The adult beetle then eat its way out of the wood and emerge through exit hole when searching for a mate and the process begins all over again.
In its larvae stage, woodworm can cause extensive damage to violins through eating their way through the wood in. Therefore, it is crucial that violinists know how to identify the signs of a woodworm infestation before the violin reaches the point of no repair.
How to identify a woodworm infestation in a violin
Dead or Alive Beetles
Finding beetles, dead or alive in close proximity to the violin is a sure sign of a woodworm infestation. If you notice beetles emerging from small burrow holes in the violin, then this all but guarantees that the violin is infested with woodworm.
The “Common Furniture Beetle” is extremely common in the U.K and as they are prone to die shortly after mating, they are often found dead near the infested wood. The “Common Furniture Beetle” is small and brown in color.
Exit Holes and Tunnels in Violin
When the beetle is ready to begin mating, it eats its way up through the wood and creates a small exit hole in the violin, similar to holes found in a dart board. If you notice burrow holes in a violin, this is a sure sign there was once a woodworm infestation but it is possible the infestation is no longer active. There may or may not be wood boring beetles still inside the wood but it is impossible for this to be determined by burrow holes alone.
If burrow holes are present in the wood, there is often raised “tunnels” within the wood too. These raised tunnels show the route taken by the woodworm in its larval as it eats its way up and down through the inside of the violin.
If there is an ongoing woodworm problem, then there should be fine powdery dust near the burrow holes. This dust is the faeces left behind by the larvae as it eats its way through the wood and is known as frass. Frass looks quite similar to moist sawdust is normally found close to the exit holes as it builds up when larvae bore through old tunnels. Frass is not generally the result of new beetles emerging so it would strongly suggest the violin has an active woodworm infestation.
The number of woodworm will multiply in time if the infestation isn’t treated. This will result in an increase in the amount of burrow holes in the violin, which will make the edge of the wood start to appear crumbly. Crumbly edges indicates the woodworm infestation has been active for a long time and should be immediately treated to prevent further damage to the violin.
What do I do if I suspect woodworm in my violin?
Any sign of woodworm in a violin should not be ignored as the damage caused will only get worse over time. The adult beetle itself cause very little damage to wood but after mating the female beetles will fly around looking for somewhere to lay their eggs which could lead to other wood in your home becoming infested. If you notice signs of woodworm in your violin then it is strongly recommended to have the infestation treated immediately and to determine if the wood boring beetles have spread to any other wood in your home.
By Jake Ryan of Wise Property Care