The Travel Tart
Offbeat Tales From A Travel Addict

Quarantine Red Hot Tip of the Week – What to do if you buy wooden articles overseas

Quarantine Tips For Wooden Articles

Quarantine is a fact of life for Australian travellers.

Anyone who has come through Border Security would have been subjected to the intense interrogation procedures regarding the importation of any food stuffs.  You might think there are heavier penalties for smuggling salami than hard drugs!

Even though I’m usually shopping-adverse, I do buy the odd curio overseas to take home.  I especially like African Tribal Masks.  In 2002, I bought myself a Zulu mask in Durban, South Africa.  Loads of people buy wooden articles to display in their house, and this often makes good dinner party conversation when guests spot them on the wall.

My Quarantine Example

I’ve shown this African Tribal Mask below:


Unfortunately, I found out more than a year later it housed a number of ‘boxwood borer’ insects that escaped through the eye and mouth, leaving fine sawdust on my hallway table.  I’ve included photos of the holes left by the insects below.  I called the Quarantine service straight away when I found out.


holes-in-zulu-mask(holes are in top left and bottom right corners)

However, they didn’t get far.  My contingency was not cleaning my house thoroughly, so an extremely well-placed cobweb suffocated the newly-hatched bugs.

Anyway, the moral of the story?

If you buy a wooden object overseas, do your own Quarantine – place it in the freezer for a couple of days when you get home.  Sometimes, insect larvae can live within a wooden mask for months after you buy it.  Freezing the wooden article kills the larvae, and ensures that you don’t bring in another biological disaster home.

So that’s why Quarantine matters!  I now place this CAUTION QUARANTINE AREA Sign on my Freezer!

In this particular case, the boxwood borer had already invaded Australia!  I called Quarantine to inspect the mask, and they advised me about the freezing technique.

More Quarantine Stuff

This was one of my 52 Perfect Offbeat Travel Tips post that I sent out a while ago!  So the next time you buy something wooden overseas, have a think about Quarantine!

Also check out interesting titles such as Commonwealth of Australia Quarantine Service Publication No 17 Venereal Disease in Australia and Feral Future: The Untold Story of Australia’s Exotic Invaders.

About Anthony The Travel Tart

The Travel Tart writes about the funny, offbeat and weird aspects of world travel today. Travel wasn't meant to be taken too seriously! Check out ways to say hi below or sign up for his silly newsletter!

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  1. January 3, 2010    

    I am a big fan of these types of masks and have a number of them in my house as well. I really like this one.
    .-= Fred´s last blog ..Snow =-.

  2. May 4, 2010    

    Wow, that is creepy. Thanks for the heads up – I never would have thought about the very real possibility that bugs are living in wooden artifacts. I guess that freezing for a few days would never hurt the wood either right? Did you put it in plastic first or anything?

  3. Outdoor Chairs Outdoor Chairs
    May 5, 2010    

    Aw, the perils of not freezing the mask!! But as you point out, it really is important to think of such things in order to protect the argriculture and natural areas of your own country. The freezer method is something I’ve used myself, when collecting animal bones. A few days in the freezer, and nothing is alive to surprise you!

  4. led spotlights led spotlights
    June 19, 2010    

    Yucky, just the thought makes my skin crawl. Imagine if you had some termites living in there or some poisonous spider eggs etc etc, I could only imagine the havoc they would bring. I would never have thought that freezing method would have worked but I guess you learn something new everyday!

  5. June 25, 2010    

    I adore your website – super effort!

  6. Weddings abroad Weddings abroad
    June 6, 2011    

    My mother-in-law visits family in South Afroca every couple of years and always brings a lovely new assortment of African artifacts back, I really like them and have started a small collection myslef. Its something a bit different to what most people have and is a good talking point with visitors.

  7. July 12, 2011    

    Knowledge wants to be free, just like these airctles!

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