Termites: The Wood Eating Bugs

Termites: The Wood Eating Bugs

Beetles that Destroy Wood Defined

There are many species of wood-destroying beetles, but they all function the same way. The adults lay eggs, and the larvae eat their way through wood. Because you never see the larvae, they're difficult to control. Easy steps can help keep these destructive bugs out of your house.

So, what is termite?

Facts and Identification Information

Termites are often called the “silent destroyer” because they may be secretly hiding and thriving in your home or yard without any immediate signs of damage. All termites consume cellulose-based plant materials. Unfortunately, all homes, regardless of their construction type, can provide cellulose food for termite infestation.

Termite Scientific Name

There are three major types of termites found in the United States: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood. They all belong to the phylum Arthropoda, the class Insecta, and the order Isoptera. There are over 2,000 different species, which all have distinct scientific names.

Three of the more common home-invading termite species are Eastern subterranean termites, Pacific dampwood termites, and Southeastern drywood termites. Their scientific names are Reticulitermes flavipes, Zootermopsis angusticollis, and Incisitermes snyderi, respectively.


Termites range from 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in length. The queens and kings are larger, capable of reaching over one inch long. The workers are typically soft-bodied and pale-colored. Flying termites, also called reproductives, have two pairs of prominent wings. Learn more about what a termite looks like.

Unless you know the signs, you may never know they're there.
How can such little-bitty beetles do so much damage? Wood-destroying beetle larvae chew up wood from the inside out. They can destroy the structural strength of buildings. Different kinds of wood-destroying beetles seek out different kinds of wood. Some prefer hardwoods, others like pine. Here's how to recognize and prevent them in your house.

Prevention and Maintenance

The Life Cycle
Every species of wood-destroying beetle has the same life cycle, from adult to egg to larva to pupa to adult. The adults are harmless; the larvae do all the damage. Since the larvae are inside the wood when they eat, they're difficult to control.

The Major Beetles
There are many different species of wood-destroying beetles. Powderpost beetles are very small, only 1/8 inch long as adults. Their exit holes are tiny. Sometimes, the only way you can tell if you have them is by the small piles of sawdust, or frass, that they leave outside their holes. If you see bigger holes, up to the size of a dime, you may have old-house borers. If you see holes in wood and hear a clicking sound coming from it, you probably have deathwatch beetles, also called furniture beetles. Other beetles include false powderpost beetles and long-horned beetles.

How to Prevent Wood-Destroying Beetles
Wood-destroying beetles have a role in nature, which is to break down wood on its way to becoming compost. There are plenty of old trees to choose from; they don't need to attack your house. Make sure you only bring in firewood that you're ready to burn soon. Since wood-destroying beetles prefer a little moisture in the wood they attack, make sure any lumber you buy is kiln-dried. Also, check it for exit holes before you take it home. Sanding and varnishing or painting bare wood keeps adult beetles from finding a little crevice to dig into.

Treatments for Wood-Destroying Beetles
Products that contain borates are effective against wood-destroying beetles. They penetrate wood, killing the larvae. Also, they linger, preventing another infestation. Ask your local hardware store where to find them.

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