Insect-Infested Wood Remediation by Microwave Heating and Its Effects on Wood Dehydration: A Case Study of Hylotrupes bajulus Larva

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Giuseppe Chidichimo; Francesco Dalena; Antonio Rizza; Amerigo Beneduci;


Studies in Conservation, Routledge, Volume 63, Number 2, p.97-103 (2018)


ABSTRACTWood artefacts are subject to damage by biologic infestations due to bacteria, insects, and fungal species. One of the worst feared attacks is due to the xylophagous insects whose larvae feed on wood by boring galleries, at the expense of building timbers and worked woods. These beetles are responsible for daily destruction of the world’s wooden cultural heritage, and their elimination has been always a big problem for conservation of wood. The need to avoid the use of chemical methods in conservation for pest control has led to the development of various non-chemical, non-toxic treatments. Among these, heating with microwaves (MW) seems to be one of the most promising, since it has already shown its high efficacy in destroying pests. Insect-infested wood remediation by MW heating in conservation is based on the larger thermal increment induced in larvae than in wood, due to their different dielectric permittivity in the GHz frequency range. However, the side effects that may occur due to MW heating of wood, such as dehydration, have never been discussed so far. Here we study the possible application of microwave heating as a remediation method for wood samples infested by the larvae of the insect Hylotrupes bajulus. We show that it is possible to set up exposure conditions able to achieve 100% of larvae death and that are sufficiently mild not to induce significant dehydration of the exposed wood from which shrinkage effects may derive. Indeed, under these conditions, MW-induced wood dehydration on cubic and parallelepiped sweetgum samples can be kept under control and to percentages as low as 0.4% (w/w).