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Wood Boring Insect Identification

If you’re a homeowner or a business owner, finding out you have been been invaded by wood boring insects is the stuff of nightmares. The amount of structural damage that these tiny pests can do far outweighs their size. Within the states that Western Exterminator services, California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, and Oregon, there are over 136 million acres of forests. That much wood is a pretty convincing argument for wood boring insects to hang out on the West Coast. We’ll take a look at four of the most common wood boring insects and which ones are reason for concern, helping you with wood boring insect identification.

If you have wood boring pests or any other pest concerns, contact your local Western Exterminator office today to stop the damage and prevent a return infestation.

Common wood boring insects

Wood Boring Beetles

Wood boring beetle

Wood boring beetles do just what their name suggests. Though the adults do their share of boring, it is the wood boring beetle larvae that actually does the most damage. Luckily, they are deterred by painted/varnished wood, which seals pores and cracks, making it difficult for beetles get inside and lay eggs. There are three groups of wood boring beetles that make up the vast majority of the conversation around home or business infestation. The groups are as follows:

  • Powderpost beetles – Named for the fine, powdered frass their larvae produce, Powderpost beetles attack hardwood with a low moisture content. Adult Powderpost beetles lay eggs in wood such as walnut, mahogany, and oak – all likely materials for flooring, window/door frames, furniture, and wood paneling. Powderpost beetles are reddish brown to black insects with forward-projecting heads.
  • False Powderpost beetles – This wood boring beetle has been known to infest both hardwoods and softwoods. They have the most coarse frass of all three types identified here, but are very small at only about ¼ of an inch. Their heads project downward. In addition to floors, furniture, and other wood items, False Powderpost beetles sometimes bore through soft metals to deposit their eggs. Additionally, these beetles often infest wine-soaked oak (like that of wine barrels), a concern for the ubiquitous West Coast population of vintners.
  • Deathwatch beetles – In contrast, Deathwatch beetles infest soft, moist wood. Therefore, structures with central heating and air (less humid environments), generally have fewer problems with this pest. Deathwatch frass is much more coarse than that of Powderpost beetles, but smaller than drywood termite frass pellets. The holes produced by adult beetles emerging from the wood differ in size. This can help to identify Deathwatch beetles over Powderpost and False Powderpost beetles, which produce identically-sized holes. Otherwise, they look similar to False Powderpost beetles. These insects communicate by tapping their heads against wood. Their name likely originated in medieval Europe when people heard the knocking while sitting up with a dying person overnight – falsely identifying it as the tapping of the Grim Reaper.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants
Carpenter ants, Camponotus herculeanus

You better hope that when the ants go marching in, it isn’t this kind. Carpenter ants are typically black in color with a round middle section. At only ⅛-½ inches in length, the workers tunnel through wood structures, leaving sawdust behind. You may see this sawdust around common entry points such in areas of high moisture. Basements, crawl spaces, kitchens, bathrooms, and windows are at an increased risk for carpenter ant infestation. Because they prefer wood that has been damaged by rot, carpenter ants are often found in firewood piles, fence posts, and tree stumps. When these items are near your home, the destructive insects can easily find pathways indoors.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees may look like bumble bees, but they’re much more destructive...to wooden structures. Males do not have stingers and females rarely sting unless provoked. An adult female will tunnel through wood to lay her eggs, leaving behind traces of sawdust below entry holes. Carpenter bees come in many different colors, but on the West Coast, they are most often a shiny black or metallic green/blue color with grayish wings. Like other wood boring insects, carpenter bees prefer bare wood, so painted or stained wood is much less attractive to them.

Carpenter bee

Wood Wasps

Lastly, we have the wood wasp. Unlike like others on this list, damage done by wood wasps is primarily cosmetic and not weakening. They may leave behind a few exit holes, but the total number of wood wasps in one home or building is traditionally very limited. They’re usually only brought into homes and buildings through finished timber, so the holes appear when they try to get out. They won’t re-infest structures and do not lay eggs in finished wood. Instead, wood wasps lay eggs in trees that are already damaged. These pests are large - about an inch or more in length. They can be various combinations of black, dark blue, red, and yellow, and their loud buzzing noise will alert you of their impending arrival.                                            

Wood wasp

Wood boring insect inspection

If you suspect wood boring insect activity around your property, don’t waste any time. When it comes to wood boring insects, the faster you take action, the better. Contact Western Exterminator today to have one of our specialists come  and inspect your property. If we determine that there is wood boring insect activity, we will work with you to develop the most effective treatment option. Don’t let wood boring insects compromise the structural integrity of your home or business. Take control with the help of Western Exterminator.

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