Wood Destroying Pests/Organisms
A wood destroying organism inspection researches whether your home shows evidence of infestation by insects or wood-destroying organisms. Several varieties of small bugs can do extensive damage to a home, especially as they gnaw away at floors, support beams and wood framing hidden behind the plaster in your walls. A wood destroying insect inspector will pay close attention to signs that insects or wood-destroying organism are present in your prospective or current home and recommend steps to repair and control the issue. Most wood pests flock to damp wood or thrive in moisture, but there are exceptions – such as drywood termites. It’s important to know which type of insect or wood-destroying organism has infested your home before embarking on a treatment, as different insects and organisms require different treatment methods. Often, however, borate or boric acid solutions are used to kill off insects.
Here’s a look at common wood-destroying insects and their behavior:
Identifying and handling termites
Termites are among the most well-known home pests, yet they’re also among the hardest to detect. Colonies of termites contain three types of insects, only one of which damages wood. However, since all colonies contain this destructive wood-eating class of insects, evidence of a colony is always a danger sign – as is the fact that termites typically flock to and gnaw away at the structural timber which supports your home. It’s likely that termites have infested your home if “mud tubes” – tunnels constructed by the bugs – run along your walls or if you see tiny wings shed by the bugs.
There are several types of termites. Subterranean termites live in soil and crawl into a home’s structure to dine on the cellulose found in its wood; they dine from inside the wood rather than at the surface. This may make their presence invisible to homeowners. Drywood termites usually appear in attics or in exterior wood, rather than inside surfaces accessed via the ground’s soil. Drywood termites thrive in warm climates and leave behind evidence such as holes in the wood and fecal pellets.
To kill off termites, you can fumigate your home or you can provide poisonous bait which a wood-eating termite will consume and bring back to the colony, causing a die-off and failure of the termite population to continue propagating.
Identifying and handling carpenter ants
Carpenter ants bore into wood and create hollows in wood surfaces where they lay eggs in nests. If your home has attracted carpenter ants, that may be a sign that your home contains decayed or damp wood – the type of wood that attracts these pests. Carpenter ants leave behind a material resembling sawdust and known as “frass.” Frass may indicate recent activity in sound wood. To treat for these pests, it’s often necessary to spray insecticide on their main nest (which may require drilling or removal of surfaces). Fumigation is another option.
Wood-boring beetles are common in older homes or newer homes with damp wood. These pests live in all 50 states and they bore into wood, much like termites do. Treatment methods include fumigation throughout the entire property; local fumigation in which borate-based chemicals are injected into wood; or removal of isolated pieces or columns of wood that have been infested. There are several types of wood-boring beetles.
Lyctids, for instance, (often called “powderpost beetles”) come in 11 varieties and often flock to younger wood, particularly hardwoods, bamboo, oak, hickory and ash. Anobiids come in 200 varieties and are often red or black. They are commonly found in crawl spaces and infest both hardwoods and softwoods. Bostrichid beetles are large and gravitate toward fresh-cut hardwoods. They are reddish-brown or black.
Dry rot in a home’s wooden surfaces results from fungus growing in the wood. The fungus occurs when the wood is moist, and after the wood dries breaks the wood up into irregularly-shaped chunks and fibers, which, because of their dry condition, allow for moisture to travel deeper into wood where fungus can further spread. Treating dry rot may require removal and replacement of wood, or, in some historical buildings, the use of epoxy or sealants to seal the wood.
Curious about wood-destroying insects and organisms?
- Clemson University guide to controlling beetles
- Powder Post Beetle Infestations (about.com)
- Pest World overview of Powder Post Beetles