Pest Advice Blog

Watch out for firewood pests

As temperatures go down this season, fireplaces are a great source of warmth and provide a pleasant gathering space for many households. Homeowners may be inclined to keep firewood either in or near their homes during colder months. However, residents doing so may unknowingly be harboring troublesome and dangerous pests. To avoid contact and infestation, firewood should always be kept on a platform outside, away from inhabited structures. Residents should be aware of the types of bugs that nest in firewood and lumber.

Wood-boring beetles
According to Purdue University's Department of Entomology, several species of beetles can take over woodpiles, long-horned beetles being the most common. These critters lay their eggs in still-standing trees. Therefore, when firewood is chopped and sold, it may already house larvae and fully grown beetles. While these bugs favor ash, oak and hickory trees, they'll settle for other options. Long-horned beetles are attracted to moisture and warmer temperatures. Therefore, if infested wood is brought inside, these pests may emerge and travel throughout the home.

Meanwhile, residents who embellish their fireplace with logs found outside may be welcoming flathead borer beetles into their home. These bugs emerge during warmer months. While they don't attack finished or dried wood, they can be very destructive for yard trees.

It's very important to inspect wood before purchasing or handling it. In addition, Purdue strongly advises against moving and transporting firewood long distances.

Carpenter ants
Damp wood and firewood stacks that insulate humidity can harbor black or red carpenter ants. As their name suggests, they excavate dead wood to build their nests, according to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). While these ants may initially be attracted by wet, decaying tree parts, they can also build paths through dry, undamaged wood. If residents bring infested wood near or into their homes, carpenter ants can start attacking building structures and damaging wiring and yard plants.

It's a good idea to eliminate any cracks in walls, windows and doors, as carpenter ants and other pests can travel through them. Residents should also eliminate moisture in their homes and get rid of standing water on their property.

Wood stacked on the ground is like a free hotel and meal for drywood termites. These pests form colonies of up to 2,500 members quickly, and can be especially difficult to get rid of, the NPMA explains. To check for termite infestation, homeowners can inspect wood for mud tunnels.

Termites can cause serious damage to buildings and structures and are usually associated with hefty repair and replacement costs. While burning pest-carrying wood immediately may not cause an infestation, firewood left leaning against an outside wall of a home allows these bugs to tunnel indoors.

Commercial pest management professionals can help homeowners identify and exterminate termites and other troublesome bugs that may enter a structure via firewood.

While many firewood spiders are harmless, there are a few dangerous species homeowners should be aware of. Black widows are notorious for their venom, as bites can cause severe pain and sometimes be fatal. These spiders harbor in dark places at ground levels, which makes woodpiles extremely susceptible to their presence.

Another important species to be aware of is the brown recluse.These nocturnal spiders tend to live outdoors in piles of wood or debris. According to the NPMA, a brown recluse bite is extremely painful and can produce an open, ulcerating sore.

Homeowners should always approach firewood with caution and wear gloves. The safest way to get rid of dangerous spiders and other wood-dwelling critters is to call a pest control professional.

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