Wood is a material that is widely used in home furnishings and construction. It is essential for making doors, tables, chairs, closets, and other furniture items. However, there are insects that adversely affect the wood of our homes and severely destroy them. Yes, we are talking about insects that eat wood.
According to The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) of the United States, wood eating insects like termites cause over $5 billion in property damage and treatment costs each year. In this article we will discuss those insects that eat wood, what damage they do, and what are the solutions to prevent that damage.
Insects That Eat Wood
Here is a list of 10 insects that eat wood –
- Carpenter Ants
- Wood-Boring Beetles
- Powderpost Beetles
- Deathwatch Beetles
- Carpenter Bees
- Horntail Wasps
- Bark Beetles
- Ambrosia Beetles
What do termites look like? Termites are small, soft-bodied insects with pale to dark brown bodies. They closely resemble Cockroaches. They form large colonies and feed on wood by tunneling through it, creating a honeycomb-like structure. The worker termites in the worker colony are in charge of feeding the soldiers, the king and queen, and the young ones. There are also termites with wings, at their reproductive stage where both male and female termite fly and leave their colonies to mate.
Termites cause damage to woods more than any other insects that eat wood. They usually have a big life span, the termite queen lifespan is around 25-50 years. Termites leave a thin layer of wood on the surface, which usually appear undamaged.
They for sure are insects that eat wood but they cannot break down cellulose found in wood on their own, due to which they have a symbiotic relationship with Trichonympha. Trichonympha lives in the hindgut of Termites, where it helps in the digestion of cellulose found in wood. There are also other species of Termites such as –
Formosan Subterranean Termite
Formosan Subterranean Termites are found in East Asia and is known for its aggressive feeding habits forming exceptionally large colonies, with millions of individuals. They can attack living trees, utility poles, and wooden structures, causing severe structural damage.
Asian Subterranean Termites
These termites are those insects that eat wood by creating mud tubes to connect the colony to their food sources. Asian Subterranean Termites particularly feed on moist wood and are active at night. They avoid exposure to light and open air, which makes them difficult to detect until significant damage has occurred.
West Indian Drywood Termites
West Indian Drywood termites do not require contact with the soil and can infest dry, sound wood. They are known for creating small, pellet-like fecal matter, often referred to as “frass,” which can be a sign of their presence.
Other than this, there are some termites which are not those insects that eat wood but feed on grass. Cathedral termite are termites that feed on grasses and other plant material, the colony of Cathedral termite is very organized and contains a network of chambers and tunnels that provide shelter and ventilation for the colony.
Termites are insects that eat wood of various types. They typically consume softwood over hardwood, they are more attracted to wood with higher moisture content. Termites can infest Pine,
Termites are insects that eat wood of various types. They typically consume softwood over hardwood, they are more attracted to wood with higher moisture content. Termites especially infest Pine, Cedar, Redwood, Oak, etc.
Now the question is how to get rid of termites? There are many ways such as –
- Lethal termite killer like Chlorpyrifos 20% EC, is a liquid termite killer chemical, it can be sprayed over area of damage to get recovered.
- Truly Nolen Pest & Termite Control is a pest control and termite extermination company that operates in the United States and other countries. They give services for common pests such as ants, insects that eat wood, rodents, mosquitoes, bedbugs, etc. with liquid termiticides, baiting systems, and fumigation.
- Boric acid for termites is also a natural and less toxic method. It can be applied directly to areas where termites are active or likely to infest.
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Carpenter ants are larger ants, typically black or reddish-black. Unlike termites, carpenter ants are not those insects that eat wood, instead they make cavities to create space for their colonies to live and nest within woods. The signs of carpenter ants in house is the creation of smooth, parallel galleries and tunnels in woods which cause structural damage to homes.
Carpenter ants eat sugary substances, called honeydew from aphids. Now, what does a carpenter ant nest look like? The carpenter ant nest look like smooth and polished galleries or channels carved out in wood. Carpenter ants in house is spotted by small openings or exit holes on the surface of the infested wood. These holes are typically round and clean-cut.
Carpenter ants with wings are the reproductive forms. Soon after mating, they drop their wings and start looking for a good place to build a nest.
How to get rid of carpenter ants –
- Termidor SC is a liquid termiticide which is used to kill carpenter ants. It is non-repellent and cannot be detected by the insects that eat wood.
- Spectracide Termite and Carpenter Ant Killer is a product which comes in different formulations, such as sprays, foams, or concentrates to control termite and carpenter ant infestations in and around homes.
- Other than this, seal any cracks or gaps in your home that may serve as entry points for carpenter ants.
Wood Boring Beetles
Majority of the species of Wood Boring beetles attack damaged or dead trees, which makes them helpful insects that eat wood and are essential to the breakdown of waste in the forest ecology and recycling of the nutrients.
But the larvae of Wood boring beetles can cause structural damage to wooden structures, flooring, furniture, and other wood products. Signs of wood boring beetle damage include small round exit holes in the wood, fine powdery debris around the holes, and weakened or crumbling wood.
Powderpost beetles are those insects that eat wood while reducing the wood to a fine, powdery dust, hence the name “powderpost beetles. It is the larval stage of the powderpost beetles that causes damage by tunneling into wood to feed on the cellulose. The larvae bore through the wood, creating narrow, twisting channels. The exit holes left by emerging adults are often round or oval.
How to get rid of powderpost beetles –
- Freeze infested wood items for several days in a deep freezer to kill the beetles, larvae, and insects that eat wood.
- Apply residual insecticides to the surface of the wood.
- Large scale infestations, fumigation with appropriate gases to eliminate powderpost beetles.
The name “deathwatch beetle,” linked with insects that eat wood, comes from the tapping sounds that adult beetles produce by knocking their heads against the wood. Deathwatch beetle are a group of wood-boring insects known for infesting and damaging seasoned hardwoods (like oak, chestnut, and elm), older buildings and historic structures.
Their eggs are laid under the bark of trees, and when the larvae hatch, they bury into the wood. It can take these larvae up to 10 years to mature to become adults and come out of hiding, weakening structural timbers and wood over the time. The larvae of deathwatch beetles create narrow, twisting tunnels through wood, reducing it to a fine, powdery dust.
Getting rid of these beetles discussed above can be a challenging task, as these insects that eat wood often infest the inner wood of trees. However there are ways to get rid of them like –
- For smaller infested items or furniture, it can freeze at temperatures below -20°F (-29°C) for several days as it will kill the beetles and their larvae.
- In severe cases, fumigation with Vikane gas can be done. The gas interferes with the respiration and metabolism of the beetles.
- Seal wood surfaces with paint, varnish, or wood stain to prevent beetles from laying eggs in untreated wood.
Other than the Beetles discussed above, there are many other beetles, insects that eat wood like Old-house borers, Metallic Wood-Boring Beetles, Round-Headed Borers, etc. which causes significant destruction to our furniture, homes, and forests.
Carpenter bees are large, individual bees known for their ability to create nests by digging into wood. They are typically large, strong bees with shiny, black or dark brown bodies. Unlike honeybees and bumblebees, carpenter bees are individual nesters. Each female creates her own nest and does not live in colonies.
They are the insects that eat wood which are unpainted or untreated, like softwoods such as cedar, redwood, and pine. The Giant Borneo Carpenter Bee is one of the largest bee species in the world. Carpenter bees nest is excavated in dead or decaying wood, such as tree trunks, or logs.
Now do carpenter bees sting? Unlike other bees, carpenter bees sting is not typically aggressive and are unlikely to sting unless directly provoked or handled.
The females form tunnels in wood to lay their eggs and provide pollen and nectar for the developing larvae. These tunnels can extend several feet into the wood, damaging its structural stability. Carpenter bee tunnels can create entry points for water, which may lead to moisture-related issues such as wood rot and decay.
How to kill carpenter bees –
- Use citrus oil, as these wood eating insects dislike the smell of citrus, spraying citrus oil on wooden surfaces help to get rid of carpenter bees.
- Many birds such as woodpeckers, and bluebirds, are carpenter bee predators as they feed on these insects that eat wood and extract their larvae from their nests within wood.
- Carpenter bee repellent can help stop these wood-boring insects from nesting. Some effective carpenter bee repellents are paint, insecticides, mothballs, etc.
- Applying almond oil to wooden surfaces can also act as a repellent and helps in getting rid of carpenter bees.
Horntail wasps, also known as wood wasps, are a group of large and solitary wasps. They are relatively larger than other insects that eat wood. The female Horntail wasps use their long ovipositor to lay eggs within the wood. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the wood to grow for the next 2-3 years as an adult, creating parallel galleries or tunnels through the wood. The larvae use their mandibles to chew through the wood’s cellulose, gradually enlarging the tunnels.
The Pigeon Horntail Wasp are also insects that eat wood. It is a species of horntail wasp known for its striking appearance and wood-boring behavior. Pigeon Horntail Wasp bore into dead or decaying wood, such as the wood of trees or logs. They create tunnels within the wood to deposit their eggs, and the developing larvae feed on the wood as they grow.
Infestation of Horntail Wasps can be treated by taking following measures –
- Some traps are designed to capture adult horntail wasps. These traps use pheromones or lures to attract the wasps.
- In some cases, adult horntail wasps can be physically removed using a vacuum cleaner or by swatting.
- Encourage natural predators, such as woodpeckers, that feed on horntail wasp larvae and pupae.
- Insecticides such as
- Insecticides such as Bifenthrin, Permethrin, Chlorpyrifos, etc. are also applied or sprayed to control horntail wasps.
Bark beetle signs include the discoloration and fading of tree foliage with flowing resin out of the bark. Also, there is a Japanese Bark Beetle, a species of these insects that eat wood is native to Japan and other parts of Asia. They are known to target weakened or stressed pine trees leading to tree stress and then eventual death of the tree. We can see several bark beetle holes in the these trees.
To deal with the infestation of Bark beetles, here are some bark beetle treatment –
- Trap trees are used to attract and collect bark beetles. These trees are intentionally left standing and are treated to attract the beetles. After that they were removed along with the beetles.
- Pheromone traps are also used, these traps release synthetic pheromones that attract bark beetles. It also gives an early warning of infestations.
- A chemical called Borothor, which is based on boron, is also a great bark beetle treatment. It seeps into untreated wood and poison insects that eat wood. It is used for both Horntail Wasps and Powderpost beetles.
Ambrosia beetles are known for having a close relation with a type of fungus called ambrosia fungus. Unlike other wood-boring insects that eat wood, ambrosia beetles do not consume the wood itself. Instead, they feed on the fungus they cultivate within the space they create in the wood.
The female Ambrosia beetles carry spores of the fungus in specialized structures and introduce them into the galleries they create. The fungus then grows on the walls of the galleries and provides a source of food for the beetles.
While Ambrosia beetles are not the insects that eat wood, their tunneling and fungus cultivation weaken the tree’s structure causing branch dieback and tree mortality.
Steps taken for Ambrosia beetles treatment are –
- Fungicides such as Propiconazole, Imazalil, copper-based fungicides, etc. are applied to affected wood surfaces to stop the growth of the fungus on which they feed.
- Fumigation with gasses such as methyl bromide or sulfuryl fluoride is also considered for treating wooden items infested by ambrosia beetles.
- Two common insecticides Permethrin and Bifenthrin are also used to reduce ambrosia beetle attacks.
- Pheromone traps are used to attract them as well.
Weevils are known for their distinct appearance, with an elongated body and a prominent snout. There are around 97,000 types of Weevils species, but not all of these are insects that eat wood. Among the different types of weevils, some are also agricultural pests due to their ability to infest and damage crops and stored food products.
Wood-boring weevils are a types of weevils that are known for feeding particularly dead or decaying wood. Weevils in house eat wood however they don’t infest buildings or furniture, because they consume wood that has already been predigested by fungus.
Here are some steps to help you manage and get rid of weevils –
- A vacuum cleaner with a nozzle attachment can be used to remove weevils in house and frass from infested wood.
- Heat treatments, such as heating the wood to a specific temperature for a certain duration can be done to kill weevil larvae and adults.
- Products containing pyrethroids, borates can be used as well.
- Soluguard Woodworm treatment is a woodworm treatment product commonly used to protect wood from insects that eat wood. It contains active ingredients including fungicides and insecticides which are brushed over the infested area.
Wood-boring insects, meaning insects that eat wood play a crucial role in natural ecosystems by breaking down dead and decaying wood. However, when they infest homes, furniture and valuable items, they can become destructive pests. Understanding the diverse range of these insects that eat wood, their behavior, and their control methods are essential for protecting wood and preserving the stability of wooden objects and the health of trees in both natural and human-made environments.
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