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Nobody likes to see spiders, ants, or flies inside the house. Many homeowners spend hundreds of dollars each year for pest control companies to keep these unwanted visitors out. While some bugs are simply a nuisance, others can cause significant structural damage. Unfortunately, these invaders can be challenging to spot, as they like to live out of sight.

Knowing how to accurately identify the signs of an infestation and effectively treat for wood-destroying pests is vital to protecting your home. There are three main types of wood-destroying pests to watch out for around your property.

Carpenter Ants

Common throughout North America, these ants play an essential role in the environment by breaking down decaying wood. However, they are not picky. They are just as happy chewing on the wood framing of your home. Carpenter ants seek out moist, decaying wood. One of the easiest ways to deter them is to keep the wood trim and other structural components of your house in good condition. Replace rotting wood when you discover it.

Once the ants start moving in, it may be challenging to find them as they tend to stay inside the walls. You may discover a line of black ants entering the house from outside. You may also hear a faint scratching noise from inside the walls as they build their tunnels. The ants are larger than many other species of ants. They can be up to ¾ of an inch in length.

Contrary to what you might think, they do not eat the wood that they excavate. Instead, they cut parallel channels within wood boards to create space for their nests. As they work, they clear out the resulting sawdust. Piles of fine-textured sawdust can also be a clue to finding where they are actively working.

Carpenter ants are often mistaken for termites when they are first discovered. Both pests may have two sets of wings and may be similar in size. However, there are a few key characteristics that make the ants easily identifiable. Unlike termites, carpenter ants have jointed antennae, distinct body segments, and different size wings in the front and back. Termite wings are usually the same length in the front and back.


Probably the best known wood destroying insects, termites cause over $5 billion in property damage each year. They cause more damage in the United States than any other insect. Many insurance companies do not cover this type of damage so you will want to do your part to keep any potential problem from getting out of control. This is especially important if you live in California or the southeastern United States, where they are most common.

The most destructive species of termites is the subterranean variety. As their name implies, they live underground. It is usually by tunneling below the surface that they reach your home and invade. Never coming up to the ground’s surface, they are impossible to spot advancing on your property. The only clue that you may see of their presence are swarms of winged insects outside or inside your house during their reproductive phase. You may also find piles of wings that they have shed. Unfortunately, these signs are not usually evident until you have a significant infestation on your hands.

Unlike other wood-destroying insects, termites survive by eating the cellulose in wood. They never stop eating. Termites have been known to feast 24/7. Since they eat the wood, they don’t leave behind piles of sawdust either. Wood that has been chewed by termites sounds hollow when tapped and falls apart easily. The structure of the wood is gone. It has been eaten away, leaving only vacant space behind.

If you suspect the termite damage is occurring on your property, it is a good idea to get a professional out right away to inspect your home. Termites are not a problem you want to try to tackle on your own.

Carpenter Bees

With so many different types of yellow and black insects, it can be difficult to identify these bees. At first glance, they may look like honeybees. Both breeds are usually between ½ and 1 inch in length, yellow and black in color, and fuzzy in appearance. If you watch them more closely, however, they behave very differently.

Honeybees are interested in gathering pollen and will stick mainly to their work among the flowers. Carpenter bees do not collect pollen. The males tend to stay closer to the nest and are territorial. They may spend much of their day fighting with other males or diving curiously after humans that approach. Luckily, they cannot sting, as they do not have stingers.

The easiest way to tell if you have carpenter bees is to look for the entrance to their nests. The bees like to bore into untreated and unpainted wood, such as the bottom of wood decking or wood fencing materials. The entrance to their nest looks like a finger-sized round hole. You may even catch bees going in and out. Their tunnel will likely go up into the wood about an inch before branching out into one or more tunnels where the queen can lay her eggs.

Eliminating these bees is a two-step process. First, you must get rid of the bees. You can choose to spray them yourself or hire a professional to take care of the problem. To keep the bees from coming back, you will need to fill the holes they have made. Carpenter bees have been known to reinvade empty nests.

Protecting the wood in your home and surrounding structures from insect infestation is key to protecting your investment and avoiding costly repairs. Regular visual inspection and maintenance of your deck, foundation, and fencing can help find problems when they are just starting. Early extermination of these pests can prevent a lot of headaches down the road.