Mid Wales

Death watch beetles threat to Hay Castle

Hay Castle Image copyright Welsh government
Image caption Castle House, the adjoining Jacobean mansion, was built in 1660

Tiny beetles are threatening to do what centuries of siege and war failed to do to a Powys castle: bring it down.

The death watch beetles are eating away at 900-year-old Hay Castle, and work to tackle the problem is beginning as part of a planned restoration of the site.

Last week conservationists discovered there was current activity by the beetles in the castle's timbers.

The castle was built in the late 12th Century by the powerful Norman Lord William de Braose.

It was formerly owned by Richard Booth, the man credited with transforming the fortunes of the town of Hay by making it a worldwide name for second-hand books, but in 2011 it was taken over the Hay Castle trust.

Managing director Nancy Lavin Albert told BBC Wales: "Any ancient timber conservationist would not be totally shocked to find evidence of death watch beetles in a structure of this age.

Restoration funding

"We knew there was evidence of death watch beetles [in 2011] because we could see the very distinctive flight holes of the death watch beetle which are quite large."

After monitoring the timbers, they discovered current activity by the beetles, but are not sure yet of the extent of the problem.

She added: "It's very hard to treat chemically. The main thing we can do .... is to keep the timbers dry."

The trust has received £0.5m in development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and are applying for £5m in total to transform the castle, conserving its medieval and Jacobean buildings and creating a new centre for arts and culture.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The beetles are hard to kill with chemicals, the castle manager said