There are a few types of wood-boring insects that you should be aware of if you want to protect your home. These bugs will happily destroy any of the wood they come across, and leave you to deal with the aftermath.
This list of bugs and insects that eat or destroy wood will help you stay prepared and keep these pesky critters away.
Termites are some of the most destructive wood-boring insects to infiltrate your home. There are several types of termites, and they appear all over the world. In the United States, they’re most prevalent in the mid-country and southern states.
While many unique species exist, most termites are typically categorized into two groups: subterranean and drywood. Both termite classifications eat wood to survive, but their life cycles and preferences are very different.
Subterranean termites live in moist environments. They typically reside in the soil near a water source. They usually gravitate towards the closest wood source to the ground when they emerge to feed. That’s often foundation beams and subfloors.
Many pest control experts view subterranean termites as the more damaging of the two classifications. In many cases, this type of wood-boring bug will destroy wood for years before homeowners notice them. They’re discrete and only make their presence known once they’ve caused significant damage to a home.
Drywood termites are also destructive, but they tend to focus on walls, roofs, and other taller structures. Unlike subterranean termites, this variant doesn’t need to live in soil to survive.
Identification & Appearance
Termites can be pretty hard to spot. Mature termites look similar to ants, so they often fall prey to cases of mistaken identity. Unfortunately, many people brush off sightings assuming they’re innocent ants instead of home-destroying pests.
Mature worker termites are usually tan or off-white in color. They have three pairs of legs, straight antennae, and a relatively broad waist with a non-pinched waist.
Soldier termites are slightly bigger and typically have darker heads with more defined pincers. Of course, termites occur in massive colonies. It’s rare to see just one hanging out by itself.
Before you even see a termite, you’re likely to spot swarmers. Swarmers are the winged adults that leave the nest to form their own colonies. At the turn of spring, you might see clouds of swarmers emerging from the soil.
You may also see a collection of discarded wings by your windows or light fixtures. When the swarmers find a spot to establish a new colony, they ditch the wings and continue life without them.
In addition to seeing these wood-destroying insects in and around your home, the most obvious sign of an infestation is wood damage.
Both types of termites will chew through the wood cellulose to create what looks like wood damage. Look closely, and you might notice defined tunnels or grooves called “galleries.”
Close to the foundation, you may also spot mud tubes. The termites use these tube-like structures to move from the soil to the closest wood components of your home’s foundation.
2. Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants are another common type of wood-boring insect. Like termites, carpenter ants are a problem all over North America. However, southern and coastal states are often hit the hardest due to their high humidity levels.
These pests thrive in humid environments. In many cases, infestations are a direct result of leaks. The ants need moisture to survive, so they invade homes that have water-damaged or decaying wood.
In the wild, carpenter ants usually stick to wooded areas. They thrive in forests and will quickly claim fallen trees and damaged logs. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for scout ants to find ideal nesting spots in homes.
The unique thing about carpenter ants is that they aren’t “wood-eating” insects. Unlike termites and other types of wood-boring insects, these ants don’t eat the cellulose to survive. Instead, they chew it up as a means to create a path.
The ants will chew through decaying wood to create tunnels for nesting. As the colony grows, so does the damage! Over time, the ants will cause significant wood rot that compromises the structural integrity of walls, floors, and even furniture.
Carpenter ants don’t have an affinity for any type of specific wood. The only thing they look for is moisture and water damage. So, anything from wall studs to hardwood furniture is fair game.
Identification & Appearance
Carpenter ants vary in size, with the average being between half an inch to three-quarters of an inch. The larger species can have queens up to an inch long!
Most of these wood-destroying insects are predominantly black. However, you might see some with shades of red and brown. Like most ants, carpenters have six legs and three well-defined body sections.
The head is round and has noticeable mandibles for chewing through the wood pulp. The middle section thorax is somewhat cylindrical, while the abdomen is round and stingerless. Separating the thorax and abdomen is a small, pointed node.
These ants typically move in straight lines. So if you notice a trail of black ants in your home, follow them to find potential entry points into your home’s wooden components.
As mentioned earlier, carpenter ants prefer decaying wood with moisture. They rarely attack sound wood, so look for wood in moisture-prone areas or structures around leaks.
Carpenter ants create distinct gallery tunnels, and the density of those tunnels grows as the colony expands. Because the insects don’t eat wood to survive, small piles of tiny wood pellets tend to accumulate around tunnel entry points. It usually looks like a pile of sawdust with tiny bits of dead ants.
3. Carpenter Bees
In addition to carpenter ants, you might encounter carpenter bees in your home! These are wood-boring insects in the truest sense of the word, and they behave similarly to their ant counterparts. They don’t eat wood. Instead, the bugs chew the wood up to burrow their way through wood as they create nests for egg-laying.
A single generation usually doesn’t cause a ton of damage. Bees don’t need to go super deep into the wood to create nesting chambers. However, multiple generations can create a network of tunnels that will severely damage the structural integrity of wooden structures.
Any unfinished and unpainted wood is at risk. Carpenter bees prefer natural wood siding, weathered structures, and unfinished eaves.
Identification & Appearance
Identifying carpenter bees isn’t easy. They look almost identical to a standard bumblebee. Most are half an inch to a full inch long and feature four fuzzy legs.
The abdomen is hard and shiny. This feature is the most notable difference between carpenter bees and bumblebees. The thorax is fuzzy and typically has yellow, white, black, brown, or blue shades.
Another obvious identifier is the head. Carpenter bees have large mandibles that help them effortlessly chew through the wood pulp.
The signs of a carpenter bee issue are unmistakable. While termites and ants create distinct tunnels, these wood-boring insects burrow finger-sized holes. The entrance hole is about the size of a fingertip and is almost perfectly round. It’s not very deep, only about an inch into the wood.
Beyond the initial entry hole, the bee will branch off to dig lateral tunnels to lay eggs. Below the hole, you’re likely to see a pile of discarded pulp.
4. Powderpost Beetles
Powderpost beetles are a less-known wood-boring bug that can wreak havoc on old homes and secondary accessory structures. These insects aren’t picky, so they go after all kinds of wood. From the hardwoods like oak to the wood used on the handle of a hammer, the beetles will eat it all.
These pests get their name from the mess they leave behind. The adult beetles will chew up wood pulp to dig tunnels, leaving a fine powder in their wake. The powder can hold the wood’s shape pretty well, but any pressure will cause it to crumble like a fine powder.
Interestingly enough, adult powderpost beetles don’t chew the wood. Like carpenter ants and bees, they discard it. The beetles burrow into the wood to create tunnels for laying eggs.
The eggs continue to develop in wood pores until larvae emerge. The larvae eat the wood, creating a flurry of tiny tunnels as they continue to grow. Eventually, they make their way out of the wood and leave behind tiny “shot holes.”
Powderpost beetles rely on wood to complete their life cycle, and they spend a lot of time away from the wood’s surface. For this reason, it’s not always easy to differentiate between an active infestation and an old one. In most cases, the only way to tell if you’re dealing with an active issue is to see if the “shot holes” are weathered like the surrounding wood.
Identification & Appearance
Powderpost beetles aren’t very big at all. Adults are usually no more than a quarter of an inch long. These wood-boring insects have a reddish-brown color and have a cylindrical body perfect for navigating the tight tunnels they create.
The insects have six tiny legs and two antennae. The antennae are segmented and feature large bulbous elements on the ends.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t ever see adult powderpost beetles around your home. These bugs are elusive, and the only time people usually see them is if they cut into wood! When doing that, you might see the larvae.
The larvae are white and have ridged bodies. The head is dark-colored and has prominent pincers for eating through wood cellulose.
There are a few different signs of these wood-destroying insects. The most common is the presence of those shot holes. These holes are very small, but they’re often concentrated around a specific area. Seeing several tiny holes could mean that a beetle infiltrated the wood and laid eggs.
Another sign is sawdust. The dust might accumulate around the holes on the surface.
If you apply pressure, you may feel that the wood is hollow and delicate. In particularly rough infestations, the wood could collapse as the powdery leftovers compress.
5. Bark Beetles & Wood Borers
Bark beetles and wood borers are particularly nasty pests! In the wild, they typically live in wooded areas to feast on injured or decaying trees. However, they often make their way into homes.
Bark beetles are the smaller of the two insects. They like to attack surface-level timber. They prefer softer or weaker wood.
The bugs will consume the wood pulp and burrow their way through the wood until they reach a rougher section they can’t eat. While they stay closer to the surface, bark beetles can still do plenty of damage!
The same goes for wood borers. These insects are a bit bigger than bark beetles. As a result, they can tunnel their way through tougher wood.
Interestingly, wood borers are wood-eating insects that like to go after freshly cut wood. Unfortunately, that means finished boards used in homes are a common target. Many will even go after intricate furniture!
The good news is that wood borers typically avoid painted or finished wood.
There are a few different types of wood borers, and many are native to the United States. The most common is the roundheaded wood borer. It grows up to become the longhorn beetle.
Other variants include ambrosia beetles, flathead borers, and wood-boring weevils.
Identification & Appearance
The bark beetle is a small insect. Fully grown, these pests are usually no bigger than a grain of rice. When it comes to color, they can be black, brown, or red.
The beetles have six thin legs and two long antennae. The overall shape is oval, and many people mistake the tiny pests for baby roaches.
Wood borers are significantly larger than bark beetles. However, they also have a lot more variety in terms of appearance!
Depending on the species, these beetles are anywhere between a quarter-inch long to a full three inches long!
Roundheaded borers are the biggest. They’re brown and have very long antennae. These beetles will bore through the wood and lay eggs, so you’re most likely to encounter their slender, yellow larvae.
You might also see flathead borers. They have metallic shells and boat-shaped bodies.
The most common sign of an infestation is entry holes. Bark beetles will make very tiny holes. They’re often difficult to see, but a large infestation can destroy quite a lot of your wood.
Bark beetles stay closer to the wood surface, so a single beetle might create multiple holes in the wood.
Wood borers create more noticeable holes. They’re almost perfectly round.
If you cut in the wood, you’ll notice a lengthy network of tunnels that weaves throughout the material. These insects also lay eggs, so the hatched larvae will continue to burrow and ruin the wood.
Now that you’re familiar with the main types of wood-boring insects and bugs, you’ll be able to protect your home more effectively. These pests can destroy wood better than almost any other animal, so it’s important to take them seriously!
If you’ve been having trouble with any of the bugs on this list and want some expert advice, send us a message. We’re always happy to help.