Wooden furniture is a staple in many homes. The warm, natural beauty of wood never goes out of style. Wooden chairs, tables, beds, and other furniture have been prized for generations.
Unfortunately, this timeless material can become susceptible to wood-eating bugs. Tiny insects feast on the organic compounds in wood, damaging furniture and structures. Left unchecked, an infestation can cause extensive harm.
To protect cherished wood pieces, it’s important to understand these wood-boring pests. This article will provide an in-depth look at the types of bugs that eat wood, why they’re drawn to it, signs of infestation, and most importantly – how to get rid of them!
Understanding Wood Borers
Wood borers are insects which bore into wood during their larval stage. The holes they create can seriously compromise lumber and wooden furniture.
There are many varieties of wood boring insects, each with distinct characteristics:
Types of Wood Borers
- Beetles – Beetles make up the largest group of wood boring insects. The larval stage bores into wood, creating winding tunnels as they feed. Examples include powderpost beetles, old house borers, metallic wood borers, and others.
- Wasps – Some species of wasps, including horntails and wood wasps, lay their eggs in wood. The larvae then bore intricate tunnel systems as they develop.
- Termites – While not technically wood borers, termites consume cellulose-rich wood. Subterranean termites are especially destructive.
- Carpenter Ants – Carpenter ants excavate wood to form nesting galleries. They do not eat the wood, but can severely damage it with their tunnels.
- Carpenter Bees – These solitary bees bore into wood surfaces, like railings, to form nests. They vibrate their bodies to carve out perfectly round holes.
Other wood boring insects include metallic wood-boring beetles, old house borers, bark beetles, and certain moths. Identifying the specific insect provides clues on how to control it.
Wood-Boring Insect Identification
To identify the wood boring insect, look for key characteristics:
- Holes – Study the shape and pattern of holes in the wood. Round, smooth holes indicate carpenter bees. Jagged holes could be beetles.
- Frass – This sawdust-like material left behind provides clues. Coarse frass points to carpenter ants. Super fine powder is from powderpost beetles.
- Appearance – Catch a glimpse of the pest. Termites have straight antenna and a thick waist. Beetle bodies are hard.
- Sound – Listen for chewing or boring noises. Carpenter bees and beetle larvae make a grinding or ticking noise.
Matching the insect to the damage is the first step in control and treatment. If unable to identify the pest, send samples or images to a professional.
Why Bugs Infest Wood
Wood boring insects feed on wood thanks to its natural compounds, shelter, moisture, and warmth.
Organic Compounds – Wood contains cellulose and lignin which insects can digest as food.
Shelter – Wood provides a perfect enclosed shelter for insects to bore and nest in. The intricate tunnels protect the larvae.
Moisture – Damp wood from flooding, plumbing leaks, or condensation can attract pests seeking water. Fungi may also grow.
Warmth – The warmer temperatures inside wood are ideal for cold-blooded insects to thrive. Heat treatments can kill bugs.
Neglect and lack of maintenance also invite infestations. Proper furniture care is key for prevention.
Common Wood and Timber Insects
Many types of wood boring insects target wooden furniture and other materials in the home. Being able to identify them is key to control.
Powderpost beetles come in different varieties. They produce very fine, powdery frass that gives them their name. Larvae feed on hardwoods over several years. Adults emerge via small, round holes.
Old House Borers
These large beetles have flattened antennae segments. They infest pine and other softwoods, leaving oval exit holes. Their frass is powdery but coarser than powderpost beetles.
These small beetles breed in inner tree bark. They attack live trees but may infest wood products. There are many species, such as pine bark beetles.
Metallic Wood Borers
These shiny beetles have ridges on their wings. The flat-headed borers attack hardwood furniture and flooring, producing a fine powder frass.
Carpenter ants excavate wood galleries but do not actually eat it. They leave smooth, clean tunnels and round entrance holes. Damage often occurs near a moisture source.
Termites consume wood cellulose. They prefer damp, unfinished wood and form mud shelter tubes. Termites work slowly and damage may not be visible right away.
Carpenter bees bore perfectly round holes into wood to form nesting galleries for egg-laying. They prefer weathered or unpainted wood and can rapidly damage surfaces.
These primitive wasps drill into wood using their long ovipositor to insert eggs. Larvae bore into softwoods like pine. Exit holes are round and smooth.
Timber Decay Fungi
Unlike insects, fungi break down wood over time using enzymes. Affected areas become cracked, moist, and lose structural integrity. Often follows another infestation.
Pay attention to small holes, powder, hollow tunnels, and other signs that may indicate an infestation requiring control. Acting quickly can prevent extensive damage.
Detecting Wood Insects
Detecting a wood boring insect infestation early is key to limiting damage. Here are the common signs:
Look for small holes in wood surfaces. Round holes are typically exit holes after larvae emerge. Odd-shaped jagged holes may indicate chewing entry points.
Sawdust or Powder
Frass, or insect waste, accumulates below exit holes. Coarse sawdust-like frass is from carpenter ants. Super fine powder points to powderpost beetles.
Listen for light chewing or tapping sounds. Wood boring larvae, carpenter bees, and other bugs make distinctive noises while tunneling. Put your ear to the wood to detect subtle sounds.
Tap lightly on wood surfaces. Sections of compromised wood sound hollow. Probe gently with a knife or awl in discreet areas to check for hidden tunnels.
Visible sagging, sloping, or small cracks suggest structural weakness or moisture damage which can fuel infestations.
Catching insects flying or crawling out of holes confirms an active infestation. Capture a sample in a jar for identification.
Noticing these signs early allows treatment to begin before major structural damage occurs. Periodic inspection and catching issues promptly is key for prevention.
Home Remedies for Wood-Boring Insects
Natural methods and home remedies can help deter or control light wood borer infestations:
Temperature Treatments – Extreme hot or cold temperatures kill larvae and eggs. Place small items in the freezer for a few days or in the sun on a hot day. Larger objects can be heated with a portable space heater or steamed.
Vacuuming – Use a soft brush attachment to vacuum up frass and visible insects from the wood surface. This helps locate entry points for treatment.
Natural Oils – Applying food-grade oils like walnut or linseed oil to unfinished wood can deter some boring insects who dislike the texture and compounds. Avoid attracting new pests with harsher chemicals.
Silica Gel – Placing moisture-absorbing silica gel packets in enclosed areas like drawers or display cases helps dry out wood, making it less desirable for pests. Monitor humidity levels.
Diatomaceous Earth – Sprinkling this fine, abrasive powder on wood cracks or entry holes kills crawling insects through microscopic cuts on their bodies. Avoid breathing in the dust.
Wood Repair – Filling holes and sealing damaged areas prevents existing infestations from spreading and deters new ones. Match colored fillers to the finish.
Natural preventive measures enhance pest management. However, active infestations often require professional treatments to fully eradicate.
Professional Pest Control for Wood Borers
For heavy infestations or pests in crucial structural wood, call in a professional pest control company. Qualified exterminators have access to stronger treatments and methods like:
- Fumigation – Sealing furniture or rooms and releasing pressurized gas penetrates wood fully to kill insects and larvae. Required for whole-home termite infestations.
- Liquid Application – Directly spraying pesticides into entry holes or on wood surfaces poisons bugs on contact. Often used for carpenter bees.
- Foam Injection – Special expanding foams contain insecticides. Injected into galleries and tunnels, it suffocates and poisons larvae. Useful for closed voids.
- Heat Treatment – Heating up a whole room or building to 130°F-140°F for 2-3 hours kills all life stages of insects. Non-toxic but energy intensive.
- Wood Replacement – Severely damaged structural wood may need complete replacement to fully address infestation.
Choose an experienced company able to identify the pest and provide appropriate treatment. Get an inspection of all susceptible wood for a comprehensive solution.
Cost and Considerations for Wood Borer Treatment
The cost to treat wood boring insects varies based on some key factors:
- Infestation Size – Larger infestations require more labor, products, and treatment methods which increases costs.
- Accessibility – Treating enclosed voids or structural wood is more labor intensive than surface applications.
- Company – Rates vary between companies. Larger outfits may charge more but have stronger expertise.
- Treatment Type – Heat, fumigation, and full replacement are more expensive than localized spraying.
Average Exterminator Costs:
- Spot surface treatments: $100-500
- Fumigation for whole structure: $2,000-5,000
- Full heat treatment: $3,000-$6,000
- Wood replacement: $500 per damaged beam
Get multiple quotes. Consider both short-term fixes and long-term prevention when budgeting. Addressing issues early reduces costs.
How to Get Rid of Wood-Eating Insects
Completely getting rid of wood boring pests requires diligence and a repeated process:
Thoroughly examine all susceptible wood for entry holes, hollow areas, frass, and other evidence of infestation. Note active locations.
Accurately identifying the type of insect indicates the best treatment method. Capture specimens if unsure.
Separate and seal off infested items to prevent spread. Discard small furnishings if heavily compromised.
Apply appropriate treatment method to both visible entry points and enclosed voids where bugs may hide. Fumigation or heat works best for major infestations.
Re-check treated areas for any sign of re-infestation. Retreat if needed to ensure all life stages of insects are eliminated.
Take ongoing preventive measures like sealing wood, controlling humidity, and regular inspections.
Completely eliminating an infestation requires dedication. Persevering with multiple treatments prevents further damage.
Prevention and Maintenance
Preventing future wood boring pest issues is key. Proper furniture maintenance and diligent monitoring are essential.
Look over wood surfaces closely each season for early signs of infestation like tiny holes or powder. Catch issues before major damage occurs.
Keep relative humidity below 50% indoors. Monitor damp basements and crawlspaces. Fix any moisture sources like leaks.
Apply Protective Finishes
Using varnish, polyurethane, or oils on bare wood makes it less inviting to pests. Reapply finishes regularly.
Handle Firewood Properly
Store firewood outdoors away from homes. Bring inside only what is needed to avoid transporting wood borers indoors.
Discard Infested Wood
Destroy and replace badly compromised wood. Prevent spread to structural areas. Don’t use infested wood for projects.
Make Home Less Inviting
Seal cracks in walls, floors and roof. Ensure proper drainage around foundation. Install pest-resistant windows and doors.
Wood-eating bugs can quickly wreak havoc on beloved furniture and homes. Identifying the culprit pests and taking prompt, repeated treatment allows for eradication and prevention of further infestation. Make careful inspections and protective maintenance a priority to nip any problems in the bud. With vigilance, your valuable wood pieces can remain pest-free for generations to come.