Wood-Eating Bugs: A Quick Guide

Termite & wood-destroying organism control starts with proper identification.

At AmeriSpec, we value inspector expertise, and we understand the importance of your real estate investment. That’s why we recommend that any evidence of termite or wood-destroying organism (WDO) damage be immediately assessed by a qualified termite professional. AmeriSpec inspectors with proper training determine if an infestation exists and can recommend whether or not a professional pest termination company may be necessary.

WDI warning signs require accurate identification. Only after the type of damage present is established, can safe removal and property repair begin. Because visible WDO damage develops over time, chances are, if you do spot the presence of wood-destroying insects, they’ve been present for months.

Our experts have gathered essential information regarding common wood eating bugs and the threats they pose to houses. Keep reading to learn about four different types of wood-eating bugs including: termites, powderpost beetles, carpenter ants, carpenter bees, bark beetles and wood borers.

1. Termite Types & Inspection Process

close up image of termite damage

Even though lower temperatures in winter months help prevent exposure, termites are still highly destructive. Once termites have made it onto your property, they’re capable of causing considerable property damage due to their ability to chew through wood and flooring without easy detection.

Fortunately, our termite inspectors know what to look for and can examine your property comprehensively, determining whether or not an infestation exists and assessing how serious the damage might be. We classify termites into two further groups: drywood termites and subterranean termites. Either one or both of these termite types can be found in almost all 50 states, meaning long-term nests that bring the threat of significant home damage.

After hiring one of our local inspectors, they’ll help identify classic signs of wood destroying-organisms or conditions that might be conducive to their future presence. Termite colonies require moisture, which could be coming from your property’s exterior soil or, even, a leaky water pipe inside your home. Once discovering a source of moisture, termites feed on the wood they inhabit, forming damaging tunnels as they travel back and forth between the wood and the moisture source.

WDO inspectors are trained to look for certain signs when assessing for termite activity. When subterranean termites feed, they damage the property’s subfloor, causing identifiable, visible damage that looks somewhat like normal water damage. Termites also can hollow out surfaces like walls or floors, leaving behind grooves called galleries that lessen the structural integrity of wood. Our termite inspectors can identify these areas because of their physical appearance or hollowed-out sound.

Additionally, during the mating process, termites become airborne, using wings to leave the nest. After starting a new colony, termites discard these wings. You may find your termite inspector checking windows, doors and other home-access points for termite wings, evaluating whether or not they’ve made their way inside. Termite inspectors are adept at identifying these warning signs and can help recommend if you might need to take further action.

2. Powderpost Beetle Damage & Activity

close up image of powderpost beetle damage

Powderpost beetles pose a significant risk to homes, as they alter the wood they consume to dust or a fine powder. Individuals who are considering purchasing or currently own an older property can be at high risk for powderpost beetle infestations. These pests damage a range of wood, from hardwoods like oak and walnut to softwoods like pine. If they sneak into your home, they can end up causing damage over many years.

During this time span, powderpost beetles lay eggs in wood pores. After hatching, beetles feed on wood and create damaging tunnels. When adults finally emerge from the wood, tunneling their way out, they leave a small hole that some wood-destroying inspectors refer to as “shot holes”.

Inspectors look closely for this structural damage anywhere wood is present on the property, paying attention to the powder-like sawdust the beetles leave behind. Sometimes referred to as “frass”, this mixture of beetle droppings and wood particles can inform a trained wood-destroying organism inspector about beetle species and presence.

3. Carpenter Ants & Bees: Cavity Dwellers

close up carpenter ant damage

Unlike many other wood-destroying insects, carpenter ants and bees don’t consume wood for nutrition. Instead, these bugs get their names because they seek out weakened or rotting wood, insulation materials, hollow-core doors and spaces between walls to bore into wood and build nests. Once the nest is formed, carpenter ants cause wood rot, facilitating the infestation’s expansion. Their reliance on decaying or moist wood means these pests can often be found in bathrooms, under sinks or nearby dishwashers.

Because carpenter ants eat small pieces of organic matter, inspectors keep an eye out for a mix of dead insects and wood shavings near window sills or foundation tops to eventually find the location of a nest. Carpenter ants can also form satellite nests away from their main, parent colony in fairly dry property locations. This means that, if you suspect you might have a carpenter ant problem, it’s best to contact your local AmeriSpec wood-destroying organism inspector to assess the situation completely.

Fixing water leaks and avoiding instances of standing water near your home can help prevent carpenter ant and bee infestations, but there are still some signs you should look out for. It may be hard to believe, but carpenter bugs do actually emit rustling noises from inside walls, doors or areas near window sills they may be nesting in. Carpenter ants also have and shed wings, so finding cast-off wings can be evidence of a possible infestation.

4. Bark Beetles & Wood Borers

close up bark beetle damage

Most common in injured trees, bark beetles and wood borers bore through tree bark, eating up the matter between the bark and wood itself. While they rarely weaken the trees to the point of becoming problematic, these wood-destroying insects can cause significant damage to homeowners of log cabins or those who own wood furniture. Usually dormant in winter and cold weather, bark beetles fly toward windows, becoming quite easy to initially identify.

Wood borers, on the other hand, usually make their homes in recently cut trees. This means that wood borers can sometimes be found in finished boards used in homes! Generally, however, when wood is processed through a kiln, wood borers are eradicated. Homeowners should rest easy knowing that, other than the exit holes wood borers leave in wood, they do not reinfest finished wood products. Although, if you use firewood in your home’s fireplace, adult wood-boring beetles can find their way inside your property.

Once finished, AmeriSpec wood-destroying organism inspectors provide a detailed report, documenting if there is any presence of organisms that eat wood or if your property may be at risk of an infestation in the future. Not only can the risk of wood-destroying organisms result in repair costs, but some mortgage lenders require WDO inspections. If you’re seeking financing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a wood-destroying organism inspection may be necessary. Luckily, local AmeriSpec inspectors are here to help identify any problem and suggest action to protect your home for years to come.