Wood Destroying Insects


There are about 50 species of termites found in the United States. The most common in our area is the Eastern Subterranean Termite. These termites usually colonize in the ground between the frost line and the water table. Mature colonies have 60,000 plus members that consists of workers, soldiers, and reproductives. Workers are about 3/16” long, creamy white with slightly darker heads. They construct the colony and forage for food. Soldiers are also creamy white but have a much larger and darker head and visible “pinchers”. They defend the colony. Last but defiantly not least are the reproductives. A mature colony will have primary and secondary reproductives. The winged primary reproductives (called alates or “swarmers”) are dark, about 3/8” long including the wings which are clear to milky white. Sometimes termite winged reproductives get confused with ant winged reproductives. If it looks like an ant with wings then it probably is an ant with wings. An ant has three distinct body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. A termite winged reproductive has the appearance of having only one body part with wings twice as long as the body.Termites may enter the home through wood- to- ground contact, by constructing “mud tubes” to their food source, or by coming through a small crack in the floor or foundation. Mud tubes on the side of block walls are a sure sign of termite activity. Termites construct these tubes to protect them from the environment and predators. Sand found in damaged wood is a sign of possible termite damage. Winged reproductive swarmers are also a sign of a termite problem. Termite swarmers in the home means there are termites feeding on your home. Termites usually swarm in the spring in large numbers but there may be smaller swarms throughout the year.There are a few treatment options for a termite infestation. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. This is not a do- it-yourself job. There are structural, environmental, and financial considerations when determining what type of treatment is best for you. (Image © Michael Pettigrew/Dreamstime.com)

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants may vary in color from brown, red, to black but are usually blackish in color in West Michigan. Their size may range from 1/8” to 1/2” in length. Carpenter ants construct two different kinds of nests; parent colonies, which when mature contain an egg-laying queen, brood, and 2000 or more worker ants, and satellite colonies which may have a large number of worker ants but no queen, eggs, or larvae.Carpenter ants may establish colonies inside and/or outside the structure. Carpenter ants found inside a structure may have originated from the parent colony located outdoors in a tree, tree stump, landscaping timbers, woodpiles, or one or more satellite nests hidden behind a wall. Carpenter ants prefer to nest in wood that has been damaged by water or fungi. Carpenter ants do not feed on the wood but hollow it out for nesting. Wood that has been damaged by carpenter ants contains no mud-like material as is the case with termites. Shredded fragments of wood similar in appearance to course sawdust called frass are ejected from galleries through slits made by the ants or preexisting cracks. When such accumulations are found it is a good indication that a carpenter ant nest is near. Unfortunately, all too often the frass is hidden behind a wall or in another concealed area.The best way to control carpenter ants is to find and destroy the nests. It takes experience, skill, and a little bit of luck to determine where carpenter ants are nesting. It also takes experience and skill to determine what type of products to use, when and where to use them for successful elimination of carpenter ants in the structure. (Image © Joseph Calev/Dreamstime.com)

Acrobatic Ants

Acrobatic worker ants range from 1/6” to 1/8” long. When disturbed they will raise their heart shaped abdomen over their thorax and head, thus the name acrobatic ants. These ants prefer to nest in wood that has been damaged by water or decay much like carpenter ants. These ants also like to nest in styrofoam insulation. Acrobatic ants can be difficult to control because of the location of their nests. Specialized baits, dusts, and non-repellant insecticides work best in controlling these ants. (Image courtesy NPMA)

Powder Post Beetles

There are three common groups of powder post beetles; Lyctids, Anobiids, and Bostrichids. Since you rarely see the adult beetles or its larvae, identification depends on the type of wood that has been damaged and moisture content of the wood. Wood damaged by these beetles will have many tiny holes the size of pinheads in it. The resulting sawdust or frass will be a very fine powder.Treatment of these beetles depends on the damaged wood having an active infestation. To tell if you have an active infestation, all the existing frass should be cleaned up and any holes that can be found should be sealed up. Place a white sheet or cloth under the damaged wood and check back in a few days. If new frass and exit holes are found, then an active infestation is present. Removing the infested wood is the preferred method of control but it is usually not practical. Localized treatment of the wood is also acceptable if the wood is exposed. Sometimes the damage is so great and in an inaccessible area, a fumigation is necessary to achieve the desired results.There are other insects that will attack wood such as carpenter bees (mentioned elsewhere in this web site), wood borers and wood wasps. Please call us if you need help in identifying the pest problem or in eliminating the pest problem. (Image © Pest and Disease Image Library/Bugwood.com)

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