A home is one of the biggest investments a person can make. Several wood destroying pests exist that can cause serious damage to the structure. Damage done by these pests is seldom covered under homeowners insurance. Termites damage over 5 million homes annually in the United States, causing over $5 billion in property damage.
Carpenter Bees have black, shiny abdomens. Males have a yellow face, while a female’s face is black. They are named for their nesting procedures. Carpenter bees bore holes in decks or other wooden structures. Females bore a circular hole into the wood for about an inch, then make a 90° turn and continue for another 4–6.” Male Carpenter Bees are territorial and become aggressive when humans are near, buzzing around their heads. However, the males have no stinger and are not harmful. The females are capable of giving a potent sting, but that is a rare occurance. Carpenter Bees prefer weathered, unpainted wood so treating or painting your wooden structures provides some protection from them.
Carpenter Ants are relatively large. Known mostly by their size and color, carpenter ants are commonly black; however, their color can range from black to red or even solid red. Carpenter ants have one segment to their waist and a long abdomen containing lightly-colored dull hairs. Though the name suggests otherwise, Carpenter Ants do not eat wood, but instead feed on plant juices and other insects. Black Carpenter Ants do bite and can spray formic acid, but they do not possess the ability to sting their prey. Most carpenter ant species establish their first nest in decayed wood and later expand into sound wood. Within structures, nests are located in wood (preferably softened by fungus rot or water damage), in insulation and/or wall voids. Worker carpenter ants are a nuisance when out searching for food and are destructive to timbers utilized for nesting activities. Outside structures, nests are typically found in rotting fence posts, stumps, old firewood, dead portions of standing trees and under stones or fallen logs. Swarming Carpenter Ants can appear inside or outside homes and structures from spring to fall. Swarming black Carpenter Ants can easily be mistaken for swarming termites if inside homes and structures.
Powderpost beetles vary from reddish-brown to black in color and have an elongated, narrow, flattened body. The hard shell covering their wings are often covered with small hairs. Signs of an infestation include small round exit holes (1/32”–1/16” in diameter) and very fine piles of dust beneath the exit holes. Powderpost beetles are introduced into structures in wood already containing their eggs or larvae, such as oak, hickory, ash, and other native hardwoods.
Eastern Subterranean Termites are social insects, coming from a colony located 3–12 feet underground. The colony begins with a king and a queen. The queen can live up to 50 years and can lay an egg about every 15 seconds! From the egg, she produces one of three main colony members: workers, soldiers or reproductive termites. Workers live 4–5 years and continuously forage underground (up to 400 feet around the colony and 30 feet of depth) searching for cellulose. Worker Termites actually consume, swallow, and defecate the soil to make trails that are pheromone scented. Once they find wood they consume it, return to their colony and regurgitate it to feed the others. A large colony can consist of over 1 million workers. An established colony can consume the equivalent of approximately 5–15 feet of 2×4’s per year!
Termite Soldiers resemble workers in size but have a brownish-orange head with large mandibles. Their duty is to defend the colony, food gathering area and the workers. Their mouths are not designed to directly eat wood and must be fed regurgitated cellulose by a worker termite.
Winged reproductive termites or “swarmers” are only produced by the queen once the colony is well established, usually once the colony is 4–5 years old or approximately 100,000 in population. The queen can produce as many as 20,000–30,000 swarmers per year! In the spring these swarmers instinctively leave the colony by following mud trails made by the workers and will emerge from an active termite-infested area. The swarmers then fly out of the active area and try to get as far away as possible. Swarming termites have been found to fly as far as 1 mile from the swarm sight! Swarmers do not do any direct damage and do not consume cellulose—they are new kings and queens of a potential new colony. Within approximately 2 hours of the initial swarm, these reproductives must disperse, drop their wings, choose a mate and start excavating the soil or they are eaten by a predator, succumb to dehydration and die.