There are many other insects besides termites that can invade your home and cause you sleepless nights. Ever since there has been wood in our forests wood boring insects have existed to aid in its decomposition. Forest insects play an important role in plant reproduction, soil richness, and sustained forest wellness and diversity.
In our forests, insects can colonize weak but still living trees eliminating them, therefore, benefiting the overall health and resistance of the forest. Also, insects themselves provide food for birds, mice, bats, frogs, salamanders, lizards, and some mammals.
Some uninformed people may think that all insects are bad and in need of control, but keep in mind the good done by many insects is beneficial and outweighs anything bad caused by a few pest species.
Moisture in wood is what attracts insects – if the wood is pressure treated, you will not have an insect problem. They don’t like pressure treated wood! Wood in properly constructed homes and buildings will not have a high moisture content, and so it will only decay if it is in contact with the ground or frequently gets wet. The drier the wood the less likely it will be attacked by wood inhabiting insects, but that doesn’t mean it won’t of course. Just read what drywood termites do.
Scientific Name – Camponotus
Carpenter ants are indigenous to forests all over the world, here in the United States they live mainly in our timberlands, but they do take up residence in homes and buildings. Under favorable conditions they will thrive and continue to reproduce, all the while destroying our homes from within.
Carpenter ants are black and grow as long as ½” in length, and some species are reddish or yellowish, with large mandibles. These insects live in moist wood both outside and inside the home. When inside they find shelter and take up residence inside hollow doors, behind insulation and Styrofoam panels, and wood voids in structural timber.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood like termites do. Instead, they cut galleries in wood to form a nest or expand a colony, with their powerful jaws the carpenter can hollow out solid fir or pine lumber. These insects like the foods we like namely sweets and will come out to feast under cover of darkness, if a colony is indoors, they will also come out for water.
These insects are classified as wood destroyers in most states and are reportable on real estate transactions. When carpenter ants invade homes they are in search of food, with termites that is not the case – the wood is their food, other distinguishable characteristics are larger antennae, waists, and wings.
Swarming season is in the spring to mate and form satellite colonies which are offshoots of the parent colony; their nesting preference is in moist wood that has been weakened by water. Inspect around bathtubs, sinks, poorly flashed chimneys, roofs or space voids – like behind a dishwasher.
The Powderpost beetle is another wood boring insect, and most of the damage it creates is done by the larvae while feeding. This insect turns wood into fine flour like powder as it meanders through the timber in your home.
They are reddish-brown to black in color and can grow up to 3/4” long and can be a major headache!
One subfamily of Powderpost beetle named Lyctidae attack only manufactured hardwood products from trees such as ash, hickory, oak, pecan, walnut, and may tropical trees; attacking only the sapwood. This bugger re-infests seasoned wood until it disintegrates.
In homes, they build nests in plywood, hardwood floors, cabinets, furniture, wood paneling, door frames, and molding. The starch in the wood determines the amount of damage and infestations are usually limited to flooring, hardwood paneling, trim, and furniture. You will probably notice an infestation by discovering small round holes in the surface of your wood. At times fine sawdust will be coming out of these ‘shotholes’ which are exit passageways where adult beetles have chewed out of the wood.
Once adults emerge their life outside is very short, and they mainly prowl at night between the months of April and July. Their larvae then bore back into the wood emerging 1 to 5 years later to start the cycle all over again. Most Lyctid beetle infestations occur in newer homes – buildings less than five years old which have been built with infested wood. Removal of infected timbers is an effective control method, or fumigation may be called for when removal is not an option.
Another type of beetle to look out for is the Anobiid they attack both hard and softwoods. They accumulate when conditions are favorable starting in poorly ventilated or poorly heated crawl spaces, and basements, although they rarely attack homes on slab foundations. These small creatures are less than 5/16″ long and are also reddish-brown to black in color.
Being so small it usually takes ten or more years before the number of infesting beetles infesting your home becomes large enough for their presence to be noticed. People call them ‘woodworms.’
Anobiid powderpost beetles most frequently infest structural components (beams, sill plates, joists, subflooring, and plywood) of the home that are softwoods such as pine, fir and spruce. Anobiid powderpost beetles will also infest hardwood furniture and flooring.
Additional types of beetles that may cause wood damage are: Bostrichid, Old House Borer, Ambrosia Beetles, Bark Beetles, Round-headed borers, Flat-headed borers – these types tend to be smaller and less damaging.
Homeowners in the United States are bothered with Carpenter Bees which infest homes and can be very scary. The bees grow to almost one inch long and are similar in size to honeybees. Morphing from egg to larvae, pupa to adult – they live solitary lives and do not colonize.
Carpenter bees feed on pollen and nectar and do not eat wood – they do however make their homes in dry, weathered wood, such as roof eaves, doors, decks, untreated posts and poles, windowsills, railings, unfinished siding, roof trim, fences, and wooden lawn furniture. Untreated timbers that are not covered with bark is the favorite item for excavation – items made of Oak, Redwood, Cyprus, Pine, and Fir.
In the United States, there are two types of Carpenter Bees (large and small), the ones that set up shop in your home are the large carpenter bees Xylocopa, the insects are black, metallic blue, greenish or purplish in color.
After carpenter bees move in, woodpeckers come next – they are attracted by the presence of bees and eat immature bees, they will further damage the surface of the wood. The female makes entry holes attacking soft woods leaving behind sawdust-like powder which accumulates below the hole.
Females prefer to inhabit abandon nests – using their strong jaws to bore out entrances to their new accommodations, and when finished the hole resembles a 1/2″ power drill hole. She then lays eggs which usually (depending on environmental conditions) take seven weeks to go through the metamorphosis and reach adulthood.
Newly developed adults leave the nests in April or May. In our northern states, carpenter bees have one generation or brood cycle per year – in Florida, they have two or more per year.
Male carpenter bees are very protective of their nests, and their flight activity can be scary. These guys will dart by or hover menacing by you, your pets or other invaders, but they do not sting – the female will sting but only when provoked or if they feel threatened.
Other insects worth mentioning that invade homes are:
- Honey bees
- Indoor ants
- Fire ants
- German cockroaches
- Bed bugs
- Horntails (wood wasps)
- Wood-boring weevils
- Dry-rot fungi
Insect infections really bug people! They invade our privacy, are an insult to our cleanliness, can contribute to health issues, and are a constant reminder that the ‘inside’ ‘outside’ barriers is easily breached. Some insects feed on us, they bite us, damage our homes, and lick around on our kitchen counters, we are in a constant battle with ridding our lives them. All the while they are all but oblivious to our presence.
If you encounter and insect infestation find out all you can about the invading species, knowing about them will help you deal with the problem. Studying their biology can give you insights on how to get them to leave your home without creating a toxic condition that could affect your health. Be a scientist for a few days and find the safest answers, talk to professionals in the field and do internet research, then decide on the best course of action to take in your situation.