Woody’s Wor­ries

Some­thing is bug­ging Ruth Wood and it’s very, very hun­gry...

French Property News - - Contents -

Puz­zles of French prop­erty own­er­ship

Even though my mum hung out in Liverpool’s Cav­ern club in the 1960s she never ac­tu­ally saw the Bea­tles live.

I’m hop­ing it stays that way when she joins us in Brit­tany this sum­mer be­cause I get the feel­ing our hol­i­day home has a few live bee­tles of its own. Whether we’re host­ing a fab four, a fe­ro­cious 400 or a lonely heart’s club one-man­band of a bee­tle, I’m not sure. But let’s just say I have a few woody wor­ries at the mo­ment.

I’m not talk­ing about bog­stan­dard wood­worm by the way. You can’t have an old house in ru­ral France and not ex­pect to host the odd pe­tite vril­lette as the French call the com­mon fur­ni­ture bee­tle anobium punc­ta­tum. I guess that’s why new-build French houses have a 10-year guar­an­tee against in­sectes xy­lophages (wood-bor­ing in­sects) and their lar­vae, and why oc­ca­sional wood­worm treat­ment is com­mon prac­tice in older houses.

No, I’m talk­ing about some­thing more sin­is­ter.

It all be­gan one night in spring. I was just float­ing off to sleep when I heard a tap­ping noise com­ing from be­hind the plaster­board above my bed. I strained to lis­ten. It was very faint, a se­ries of brisk taps; then si­lence; then an­other set of taps a few sec­onds or min­utes later.

In the morn­ing, my hus­band Jon did some googling and iden­ti­fied the likely cul­prit – death watch bee­tle.

Death watch? Yep, some say it is so-named be­cause that eerie tap­ping sounds like a clock count­ing down to Dooms­day. Evil big cousin to the pe­tite vril­lette, the grosse vril­lette (or xesto­bium ru­fovil­lo­sum) is a dark mot­tled brown bee­tle, about 5-9mm in length, that taps its head on tim­ber in spring­time to at­tract a mate. The adults are ‘ in­of­fen­sifs’ and live for only a few weeks. But their eggs – 60 to 100 – hatch into cream-coloured lar­vae that bur­row gal­leries into the wood. They have a par­tic­u­lar taste for old oak door­frames and floor­boards and live for an av­er­age of three years and as much as 10. If left unchecked for years, they can even­tu­ally com­pro­mise the build­ing’s in­tegrity.

Great. So to re­cap, our house guest was a sex-mad bee­tle whose ba­bies could eat our house. Not an elf send­ing morse code. Plus, we had ei­ther an his­toric or ex­ist­ing damp prob­lem since the grosse vril­lette only hangs out in wood pre­vi­ously af­fected by wet rot.

Jon seemed re­laxed, but I was con­jur­ing up Harry Pot­ter and the Death­watch Bee­tle in which the boy wiz­ard re­duces Vol­d­er­mort’s gîte to rub­ble with the spell “Xesto­bium ru­fovil­lo­sum!”

We couldn’t stick our heads in the sand. Ostriches only do that to swal­low gravel to help them digest their food whereas we would prob­a­bly die. So in­stead we con­tacted a traite­ment de bois specialist who’ll be pay­ing us a visit next week. Ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be fine. Touch wood.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.