Wood-Boring Insects: What Kind of Bugs Live in Wood?

The insect world is full of creatures that have a close relationship with wood. Some feed on it, others have made it their preferred habitat and others harvest it for alternative purposes. Unfortunately, many of these different kinds of wood boring insects can do damage to your property. Which bugs should you be on the lookout for, and how can they be controlled? Read on to learn more.

wood boring insects

Powderpost Beetles

When people think of wood-boring insects, powerderpost beetles are likely the first insects to come to mind as these pests develop in wood. A common indicator of the presence of powderpost beetles in wood materials like flooring and paneling are numerous small holes (between one-sixteenth and one-eighth of an inch in diameter) and a fine dusting of a sawdust-like substance. This dust is produced by beetle larvae, and the holes are the openings through which adult beetles have already emerge.

Different species of powderpost beetle will infest different types of wood. Lyctid powderpost beetles only attack hardwoods while anobiids powderpost beetles will attack softwoods. Anobiids are most commonly found in softwood lumber in crawlspaces.

Most often, lyctid powderpost beetles enter lumber while it’s being stored and cured. They prefer the sapwood of oak and other hardwoods, and they may take up to ten years to develop and become adults in an infested piece of wood and then emerge from it to breed, ultimately destroying the wood. For that reason, old furniture and wooden antiques are often affected.

Kiln-drying lumber will likely kill both beetle larvae and adult beetles. Sanding and varnishing wood will usually prevent them from finding crevices where they can lay their eggs. Finally, don't store items of value in outbuildings like barns and sheds as these locations are particularly hospitable to powderpost beetles.

Longhorned Beetles

This variety of beetle is attracted to dying or freshly cut trees. They vary from 0.25 to 3 inches in length. They lay their eggs on the bark of trees and the larvae bore into the wood and spend 1 to 3 years developing and consuming wood/burrowing through it. Longhorned beetles are commonly found in firewood. They do not bite or sting. But, there is one species of longhorned beetle, the old house borer, that does attack wood in homes. One of the best ways to help prevent an infestation is to bring in firewood only when you’re ready to burn it.

Carpenter Ants

These home invaders have earned their name by excavating wood to build their nests. Carpenter ants are 0.25 to 0.75 inches in size. They are usually red, brown or black, or a combination of the three colors. They nest aboveground in cavities like hollow trees — or in your home in walls, subfloors and roofs. The first target of carpenter ants is usually wood that is or has been wet and damaged by mold. Once established, they may tunnel to and soon begin nesting in dry, undamaged wood. This tunneling can cause damage to the structure of your home. They do not eat the wood for nutrition, they just hollow it out to make nests.

Like termites, carpenter ants require a water source. Eliminate sources of moisture or standing water to discourage them from feeling at home on your property. Keep tree branches and other foliage cut back from your house, as both insects can turn those materials into a bridge to your home. Caulk any cracks or openings around the exterior of your home, especially the foundation and roofline. Finally, move any firewood, leaf litter and building materials away from your house.

Carpenter Bees

In late spring or early summer, homeowners may notice large, mostly black bumblebee-like insects buzzing outside their homes. These carpenter bees are most likely searching for mates. Female carpenter bees bore into wood to lay their eggs. The males act as soldiers, protecting the female and eggs. The males can be aggressive but are generally harmless as they lack stingers. The females can inflict a painful sting but usually don’t unless they feel threatened or are protecting their nest.

Carpenter bees prefer bare, unpainted or weathered softwoods, especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine, not painted or treated wood. Common nesting sites include eaves, window trim, fascia boards, siding and wooden decks. The damage to wood repeatedly used as nesting places can be considerable.

You can dissuade carpenter bees from nesting on your property by painting all exposed wooden surfaces, especially those attacked in the past.

With some careful observation and simple preventive measures, you may be able to ward off many of these potential wood boring insects. But if you find yourself dealing with an infestation you can’t handle, or want the help of a professional from the start, don’t hesitate to contact the pest control professionals at Terminix®.