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Pest Control/Refinishing an antique couch


I recently acquired an antique couch I intended to refinish. I was removing the upholstery when I saw a small whitish bug crawling. I didn't think much about it in that split second and hurriedly killed it. Quickly after (I couldn't find the bug) I realized I knew little about the history of this couch except that it had been in the house uncovered from the folks I got it from. My immediate great fear was bed bugs. But, I saw NO signs of bed bugs as I was removing the fabric from the couch and my research led me to believe I should have.

However, after removing the material from the back I began to think it was drywood termites (based on amateur research).

My question is: Can someone confirm drywood termites?
Second: Is this something I can recover from? I have a lot of antique furniture. If this is a huge gamble, I don't want to keep it in the house, but I want to restore this.
Third: If I can treat it, what is the best/most effective treatment?
Fourth: And I may need to seek advise from elsewhere for this one? What's the best way to restore and still preserve the value of the couch as much as possible? Replace just the damaged area? Treat and just use wood filler on the original wood? Remove the whole bottom board and just deal with it as the only way to preserve the entire piece?

PICS can be found here:

Sorry this is sooo long!!

Thanks so much in advance!

ANSWER: Victoria,

Where was the couch before you got it (city/state)? See the map on this page Was it in the red area? If the couch was far outside this area it is unlikely (but not impossible) to be drywood termite damage.

Jack DeAngelis

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QUESTION: I'm in the DC/Northern VA area,so I'm just outside of that red ring. But I understood that the couch was the guy's maternal grandmother's and that it had been in TX at some point. Outside of that I don't where it's been. Do you have any alternate suggestions on what the pest might be? I just want to be sure I treat it effectively before investing a couple hundred bucks in material. I just don't know what else it could be.


ANSWER: The best treatment for drywood termites is some type of fumigation, either heat, cold or chemical. See the page cited in the first answer for details. The damage looks like it could be drywood termite damage and parts of TX are in the "red zone". If you can inspect the whole piece you should see more termite activity if there is an active infestation. It could also be old damage and the termites long gone, without a specimen to identify it is not possible to diagnose from a description alone. At this point your best option is to get the piece down to bare wood and see if you can find any more live insects.

Jack DeAngelis

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Pellets 2
Pellets 2  
QUESTION: Drywood termite fecal pellets are kicked out of the colony by workers and may accumulate below infestations. Fecal pellets have a distinct ridged shape and are about 1/25" long (about the size of table salt). Subterranean termites do not kick out dry fecal pellets from their colonies and drywood termite fecal pellets are much larger than the boring dust particles of powderpost beetles.

I did find this page when I was trying to determine what the problem was. And then I forgot to include the pictures of the pellets I found. Maybe these will help? Are they too big? They are a mix of wood and black color and seem to be ridged upon close inspection.

If this is potentially drywood termites am I safe to leave this in the house as I slowly work on fixing it? Or should I move it outside? It will just be harder to protect it outside as i don't have a garage. Sorry to be a pest with all the follow up questions!



It is hard to tell size from the images but these could be drywood fecal pellets. It is unlikely that termites will move from the piece to other areas but to be safe consider wrapping/sealing it in heavy plastic sheeting when not working on it. Also, take a sample of the pellet material to your local Extension office ( and they will be able to tell you if it is drywood termites.

Jack DeAngelis  

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Jack DeAngelis


I can answer questions about the control of pest insects, spiders, mites and related arthropods. These household pests include termites, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, nuisance ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, fleas, wasps, and many others. I can also answer questions about using pesticides and other pest control tools such as baits and traps.


I am a retired university extension entomologist. I've taught and conducted research in urban and agricultural entomology. I've published over 70 extension publications, 20 research publications and several books about insects.

Ph.D. in Entomology

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