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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have a lot of trees in are garden and I'd like to use some of the branches in my snake vivs. What are the preferred types - we have apple, oak, birch, beech mainly.
What's the best way to treat the wood before using it? Obviously, I don't want to be introducing bugs into my vivs.
 

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Any of those would be suitable, apple or any fruit tree is fine. It's only trees that release lots of sap like pine which should be avoided. Ways to treat them are typically soaking in F10, or bake on low heat in an oven, provided the branch is small enough.
 

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most hardwoods will be ok but if your not sure then pull a little bark from somewhere (do not take the bark off in a ring as it will kill the tree) and damage it. i find it most effective to get a long strip and twist it. then leave its somewhere warm but not hot for a few days. that should force the sap to rise out from the damage. then you can see if its sticky. there are some common hardwoods, sumac for example, that have very sticky sap which is very unpleasant to deal with.
as far as the ones listed, they should be quite good and stable timbers. if you can, take your pieces from deadwood that is still attached. that will be the cleanest, driest and most reliable stuff. if deadwood is laying on the ground then it will almost certainly have picked up some fungus, it happens surprisingly fast, so it best to get it from above if possible. if you cut fresh branches then be aware that at this time of year the sap will be up and they will be inclined to mould. much better to cut during winter. oak and birch in particular will be prone to moulding right now.
beech has very little sapwood to hold moisture and the bark is very thin so that will be fastest to prepare. ash is the best as it has very low moisture content all year. however if its to go into a humid environment then they will soon start to turn bad. apple will also not last in damp/humid areas and will turn powdery.
oak heartwood will last almost forever but there is very little of it in branches and the sapwood will behave much like the ones above.
if you want to leave the bark on then you will have to bake it to be sure you remove any bugs, which will limit the size. most tree eating bugs live between/in the bark and sapwood and are remarkably resilient. the timber industry has been trying for years to find a clean way to reliably kill off any bug life but its still on chemical solutions. or just leave it until they finish their job and leave on their own. heat will take out pretty much anything though. most of the bugs you would find are only really interested in eating the tree and probably wouldnt worry the snake, but the only way to know whats in there is to remove the bark. be aware that beech bark will start to rot with a powdery black mould, so i would avoid the risk and peel it regardless.
i would also point out that bark from oak, sweet chestnut and ash are super easy to peel this time of year and can be dried quite fast. they make great half tubes that work well in a drier type viv (average of 50% humidity or lower) without moulding. i have ash tunnels that have been going for years now. sweet chestnut and ash are loaded with tannins so will take a damper environment and make sturdier tunnels for heavier animals.
if you do cut now then i would recommend baking the branches on a relatively low heat (i tend to go with 100-120c) for several hours or a few sessions of an hour and let it cool down between. that should drive out most of the moisture and minimise the risk of mould, but again winter would be a much better time to gather.

for once this is a subject i feel like i can speak on. i have been working with roundwood regularly for years. in both traditional crafts which use it immediately and in rustic furniture which call for drier branches where mould, bugs, stability and splitting are a huge problem. i have only been using this stuff in vivs for a few years now but the principles work out the same.
 

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Wow, spigotbush, that was pretty thorough! Very useful.

The only thing l'd add is that if you decide to remove bark, do it from live, freshly cut branches, and do it straight away. It peels off really well, but once it's dried out, it becomes really difficult to remove.

The very first branch l used for my viv was ash, and l peeled every single bit of bark off, let it dry out, then scrubbed it with f10 and hot water...l think it was a bit of overkill though. On the other hand, l still have it, and it's still in perfect condition 10 years later or so. But without the bark, l think it's almost too smooth and the snakes find it difficult to grip :-0

I have used branches from my apple tree since, and also ash tree. I have left the bark on, just gave them a really good scrub, f10 them, then poured boiling water over them, and let them dry out ( for weeks ).

When l first introduce them in the viv, l keep an eye on them, in case any mould appears. If it does, l immediately f10 it, and wipe it dry, which usually solves it.
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
@spigotbush
Thank you.
I'm aware of the debarking killing trees, had to protect many when I had goats 😬

We have plenty of trees to choose from, but our biggest beech tree has a large branch that needs to come off due to where it's hanging. It's a perfect one, has a few V off branches, so that's what I will use.

I'll be debarking and treating it with virkon s now I've confirmed it's safe. I'll then rinse with hot water and hope for plenty of sunshine to dry it out. The pieces I want are going to be to big to oven dry.

If it all works well, I'm going to try some oak with the bark on.
 
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