What Types Of Wood Infestation Insects Can Affect Your Property?

What Types Of Wood Infestation Insects Can Affect Your Property?

We all know that those pesky insects that bore and drill holes in wood may be tiny, but their activities can add up to big damage. In fact, wood-destroying insects cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage every year in the U.S.  Let us take a look at the types of insects that make a big impact on wood infestation in our homes and on our properties.

Which insects eat wood?

A variety of insects eat wood or make their homes in wood. Termites, carpenters ants, and wood beetles are the most well-known problem pests.  No matter where we live, whether it is along the coast or inland, we are susceptible to dealing with these critters. 


Termites are recognized as one of the most well-known wood destroying insects in the world. They live in every state and climate in the U.S. You can recognize termites by their brown, black, and beige bodies with defined waists and straight antennae. Some termites have wings, but not all species do. 

The most common types of termites are called the eastern subterranean and drywood termites. Subterranean termites live in colonies with a queen (like bees and wasps) and make their nests underground. Believe it or not, termites do not actually ingest wood; they feed on the cellulose found in wood. The pests will seek out the material in wood piles and the structure of homes. Drywood termites are different from subterranean termites because they nest underground and they make their homes inside wooden structures.  When these termites infest in a wooden structure, they live inside of it and eat from the inside out.

While termites can be found throughout the year, they are typically most prevalent during swarming season--which is between April and May.  During swarming season, termites crop up in larger numbers after the spring thaw when the weather warms up enough for them to resume their activities. During swarming season, you may notice an increase in insect activity in and around your home. In addition, you may see termites swarms popping up by wooden structures around your property. 

Termites Close Up Wood Infestation Home

Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants tend to make their homes in cool, damp climates throughout the United States. You can typically find their tunnels in window and door frames, crawl spaces, basements, chimneys, and roofs.

The main difference between carpenter ants and termites is the structure of their antennae. Carpenter ants have bent antennae, while termites’ are straight. Carpenter ants can also be black, red, or brown in color.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat any type of materials in wood. Instead, they burrow into wood to build tunnels and nests. When this occurs, the pests may leave behind piles of wood shavings that look similar to sawdust. They also tend to shed their wings near areas where carpenter ants have burrowed.

Wood beetles

There are several different types of wood-destroying beetles which can be quite destructive. 

Common varieties include:

  • Long-horned beetles: These beetles are typically around 16 to 25 mm long. They usually feature gray–black or brown bodies and have white spots on their wings.
  • True powderpost beetles: These flat-headed beetles measure 3 to 7 millimeters in length and are usually reddish-brown in color.
  • Metallic wood-boring beetles: These beetles range anywhere from 6 to 25 mm in length and are easy to identify thanks to the metallic sheen on their dark-colored bodies.
  • False powderpost beetles: These beetles are similar in size and color to true powderpost beetles but have a more cylindrical head. They also have spines on their thoraxes, while true powderpost beetles do not.

Once an infestation begins, they are very challenging to control.  This is why prevention is key before it makes a negative impact. All species of these wood-boring beetles have two wings. Their colors vary, but they typically have bodies that look rounder than those of termites or carpenter ants.

Close up brown beetle home wood infestation

Which types of insects destroy wooden furniture?

While any wood-destroying insects could damage wooden furniture, wood beetles are the most likely culprits compared to termites and carpenter ants. These wood-boring insects with wings tend to lay their eggs inside the wood. When the larvae hatch, they burrow out of the furniture, making holes and tunnels.  

What are the signs of wood-destroying insects?

The longer an infestation continues over time, the more likely your home, furniture, and other belongings will suffer severe damage. Taking action quickly when you see the signs of wood-destroying insects can limit the negative effects of wood beetles, termites, and carpenter ants. 

Some different types of warning signs include:

  • Sawdust
  • Peeling paint
  • Shed wings from carpenter ants
  • Seeing large numbers of ants, termites, or beetles in an area
  • Small pin-sized holes in wood on the inside or outside of your home
  • Small pin-sized holes in wood furniture
  • Dry chips or bits of wood inside your home

What does wood infested furniture look like

Damage from wood pests vs. rodents

Homeowners may mistake mice and rat chew marks for insect wood damage. If you have a rodent in your home that is nibbling on wood, you will likely find droppings in that same area. If you see droppings that are black and rice-shaped, it is likely mouse droppings.  If you see some that are slightly wider and between ½ inch and ¾ inch, you may have a rat problem. This is good proof that the issue is due to rodents rather than wood-destroying insects. Additional signs of a rodent infestation include foul-smelling odors and strewn nesting materials like fabric and shredded paper.

How to protect wood and your property from insects

To protect wood and your home and property from wood-destroying insects, follow these tips.

Prevent water damage in the first place

Water damage softens wood, making it easier for some wood-boring insects to eat or tunnel through. To keep your home dry:

  • Clean your gutters regularly
  • Replace worn-out weather stripping around windows and doors
  • Install and use a sump pump to prevent flooding in basements and crawl spaces
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in basements
  • Fix leaks quickly when they occur
  • Seal cracks and gaps in your home’s exterior

If water damage does occur, hire a cleanup company to help you dry out your home.

Remove food sources

Don’t leave wooden structures and furniture unfinished. Apply varnish, stain, or paint to create a protective coating. For wood exposed to the elements, use a waterproof wood sealant.

Keep moisture away from your foundation

Ensure that storm drains empty a few feet from the foundation, check your roofing for water leaks and keep all sprinkler heads pointed away from your home.  

Keep plants away from your home

While we enjoy having nice plants near our homes, some plants can provide an opportunity to attract insects.  Plants also can make it harder to notice if wood-destroying insects are attacking your wood siding or exploiting cracks in your home’s foundation.

Finish wood

Don’t leave wooden structures and furniture unfinished. Apply varnish, stain, or paint to create a protective coating. For wood exposed to the elements, use a waterproof wood sealant.

Tidy up your yard

Remove all wooden debris from your yard, like sticks, tree stumps and fallen limbs. If you have a wood pile outside, use a waterproof and insect-proof cover to shield it from the elements and pests.

Keep your trash covered

Uncovered garbage can provide food for carpenter ants. Always keep your trash in cans with tight-fitting lids and keep the lid on when you’re not actively using them. Clean your garbage cans every two to three weeks, and store the cans as far from your home as possible. 

Pest control services

It is always recommended to use a licensed pest control company for preventive maintenance and treating all of your insect issues.  Having a professional pest control service contract sometimes can save you time, money, and future issues from potential long-term damage.  

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