Learn the signs of termites in firewood, how to prevent invasion, and what to do when you find these tiny invaders in your wood pile.
Contributed by: Doug Webb
Updated on: October 28. 2022
That pile of firewood in your home might be home to a vast variety of insects, including termites. Outdoor firewood offers insects a trifecta of food, water and shelter. If you have termites in firewood, those pests are carried right into your home when you bring the wood inside. Read more about how wood piles could attract termites, the signs of termites in firewood and why you may need treatment for termites.
Signs of termites in firewood piles
Subterranean termites live in soil and construct mud tunnels that lead to their food sources. These tunnels may be visible on the outside of wood or there may be mud-lined galleries within the logs. The main termite colony containing the queen will be in the soil, but the workers will tunnel into the firewood and feed on it.
Termites burrow deep into firewood, eating the wood fibers (cellulose), and leaving behind holes. They go from one log to another until they are all over the pile of wood. You'll probably notice that the holes tend to be in clusters. To confirm if these holes are due to termites and not some other pest, look for other signs of termite activity, such as mud tubes or actual sightings of termite swarmers coming out of the wood pile.
You can attempt to break open a mud tube to see if you spot any white worker termites, which would signify that the tube is still active. Additionally, while some members of a termite colony can fly, they only exhibit this behavior when they're swarming. Swarming most often happens in the springtime.
Keep in mind that bug activity you see around your firewood could actually be carpenter ants or wood boring beetles as opposed to termites. Both only have wings when they're swarming, and can be found in close proximity to wood or moisture. But unlike termites that feed on firewood, carpenter ants, cockroaches, and some species of beetles can be found nesting in firewood.
If termites enter a home via firewood, they are not likely to start an infestation. However, when wood piles are stacked against the house or in close proximity to the foundation, it provides a way for termites to extend their feeding into your home.
How to store firewood to avoid termites and keep termites out
The best way to keep termites from entering your home in this manner is to properly store firewood.
Keep firewood off the ground
Keeping firewood elevated and off the ground is one of the most effective ways to store firewood to help keep it safe from termites that nest in the ground, as well as from other wood eating or burrowing insects.
Termites travel to and into wood using mud tunnels. These tubes are a sign that there may be termite activity in the area. Additionally, subterranean termites nest underground, so firewood stored on the ground outside your home may provide them with easier access to a source of cellulose.
Keeping firewood elevated also helps to avoid termites because it will help keep the wood from getting too wet, as certain species of termites prefer damp wood, due to its high moisture content.
Don't let firewood touch your house
In addition to keeping firewood elevated off the ground, it's also important to keep the firewood from touching your house, as it can provide a bridge from the termite nest in the soil to the foundation of your home. This can kick off an infestation, potentially leading to structural damage, hardwood floor damage and more.
You can help avoid this problem by to keeping any firewood logs from directly touching the exterior or foundation of your home. If you use a lot of firewood, you may want to keep a small pile close to your home — at least one or two feet away from the foundation of the house — and a larger pile about 30 feet away from the house.
Additional tips when storing and using firewood to help prevent termites While it's mostly true that you'll want to store firewood outside to avoid bringing other bugs into the house, another way to help avoid termites is to bring firewood into the house that you'll actually be able to use up in a day or two.
When thinking about what firewood to use from your stash, you can help lessen your chances of inviting termites into your home by following these rules:
- Use the oldest wood first. The older the wood, the more likely there's a termite infestation. To more easily access older logs, avoid stacking new wood on top of old wood.
- Cover your wood during the summer and fall. This will keep it drier and help discourage termites and other pests from using it as an overwintering site.
- Shake, jar or knock logs together sharply to dislodge insects and brush off any obvious insect structures such as webbing or cocoons before bringing it inside.
- Bring in small amounts of firewood that can be used up in a day or so. Keep it stacked in a cool area (e.g., garage or porch) until it is burned. When wood warms up, the creatures in or on it will become active.
- Do not treat firewood with insecticides, as they will have little to no effect. This practice can potentially be dangerous due to fumes that may be produced when the insecticides burn.
How to get rid of termites in firewood
It can be tempting to try to figure out how to get rid of termites quickly, but you should never attempt to kill termites in firewood using insecticides. The insecticide will not penetrate deeply enough in the wood to be effective on termites inside the wood. Secondly, burning wood that has been treated with insecticides could be a health hazard.
How to dispose of termite infested wood
Do not chemically treat firewood you intend to bring into your home and burn. Pesticides, gas, diesel fuel and similar substances can give off noxious fumes when burned. It's best to simply throw away any infested firewood. If your city or community ordinances allow it, burning the infested logs in a safe, outdoor location on your property is also an option.
Should you find evidence of termites in firewood in or near your home, contact Terminix® for a free termite inspection. A trained professional can help you determine if termites have invaded your firewood or even your home.