As the weather cools in fall and winter, families in the Carolinas turn to fireplaces, wood-burning stoves and firepits to stay warm inside their homes and in their yards. While a warm, crackling fire is soothing, the bugs that may be lurking in your logs are anything but comforting. Many of the insects found in firewood are mostly harmless and are merely seeking shelter, but pests that feed on or build nests in wood can find their way into your home or cause bigger problems, such as infestations and structural damage. Here are some of the pests that may be hiding out in your firewood and how to avoid them.
Firewood stored directly on the ground can easily be infested with termites, particularly if it is wet or has been stacked in place for a long time. Termite colonies and their queens are found in the ground, but worker termites attacking the wood will build mud or soil-lined tunnels on and between the logs. If termites are brought into the home on pieces of wood, they’re unlikely to start an infestation because they must have a connection to the nest in the ground to survive. However, if the firewood is stored close to the house or other wooden buildings, the termites can spread and cause structural damage.
Carpenter ants are big, black ants that you should be wary of if you see them on your woodpile. Carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood, but they hollow it out by chewing tunnels to create nests to live and raise their offspring. They create openings up to a quarter-inch in diameter, which you may be able to spot on the exterior of the logs. They spit out the wood as they build their galleries, sometimes creating coarse sawdust. These pests are attracted to damp, soft wood, making improperly dried logs a perfect home. If brought into your home on logs, the humidity is likely too low to start an infestation, but if you have any soft, damp wood in or around your home from water damage, roof leaks, or drainage problems, the ants may migrate from the woodpile to those vulnerable areas.
There are a large variety of wood-boring beetle species that are known to infest firewood, and long-horned beetles are the most common. Females lay their eggs in trees, and those larvae will burrow into the wood and spend years tunneling through it. Bark beetles attack dead or dying trees in groups and build extensive galleries just under the bark. Roundheaded, flatheaded, shothole borers and metallic wood-boring beetles can also be found in woodpiles. When warmed up indoors, they can emerge from the wood and be a nuisance, but will not attack finished wood inside your home.
A huge variety of other bugs may be found in your firewood, but these pests are typically just seeking shelter under bark or in the logs and are not a risk to you or your home. Pillbugs, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, wood cockroaches, wasps, flies or other pests may be found in your woodpile or emerge from wood that has been brought inside, but they will not multiply or infest your home.
How to Avoid
If you keep firewood around your home, there are several things you can do to prevent the pests in your woodpile from entering the house or infesting your property.
Keep wood dry: The drier the wood, the less hospitable it is to insects.
Stack firewood off the ground: Keeping wood elevated aids in drying and makes it more difficult for bugs to climb into. It also separates the woodpile from any potential underground termite colonies.
Keep wood away from structures: Do not stack wood against your house or garage. Keep at least three feet between firewood and buildings.
Use the oldest wood first: Resist the urge to stack new logs on top of older ones. The longer firewood sits undisturbed, the better the chances of insects making a home in it.
Leave firewood outside: Don’t bring wood into your house until a day or two before you intend to use it. Pests stay inactive in the cold, and it usually takes some time for them to warm up. Storing wood in the house for long periods of time allows them to become active in your home.
Get rough with the wood: Shake or bang logs together to dislodge any bugs before bringing it in the house. Brush off any sawdust, spider webs or cocoons you see on the wood.
Never use pesticides on firewood: Pesticides sprayed directly onto the woodpile can become dangerous when the wood is burned. Always consult a pest control professional to tackle any infestations in or around your firewood.