Every night before bed, when Kimmie counts her blessings, the first five things she expresses gratitude for are “food, water, clothing, shelter, and books” (!). Things that many of us sometimes take for granted. It’s hard to take them for granted, though, when insects start to devour the home that shelters your family! I’m hoping you’ve never experienced the “help – something’s eating my house!” sensation. But if you find yourself in that boat, here are two common reasons, what to do about them, and (most importantly) how to PREVENT these problems.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Dealing With That “Help – Something’s Eating My House!” Sensation:
No matter where you live or what the season, termites can attack your home in an instant. Feeding on wood, books, insulation and dead plants, they can destroy the structure of your house from the inside out, without you realizing. It’s important to know the warning signs for a termite infestation, and have a plan in place for what to do if you suspect termites may be feasting on your dwelling.
How to know if termites are infesting your home
The most common time of the year to see termites is in the spring, since warmer temps and spring rainfall make them happy:
- If you start to see the winged variety flying around your home (which is the most common type to see around spring), that’s a red flag that you may have a hidden infestation underground.
- Another telltale sign is if the paint on your walls is beginning to crack, or if wood that was once solid is now hollow.
- A final sign is if you notice tubes of mud outside your house.
There are two common methods used by an extermination service. One is setting out termite baits which use a cellulose-based trap, tempting termites in (and eventually killing them). Second is applying liquid chemical termiticides to create a barrier around your property in the soil. This prevents termites from entering your house and infesting it.
How to lower the risk of termite infestation
Whether you’ve lived in your house for a year or for decades, a termite infestation could be devastating to your home and peace of mind. There are many ways that you can lower the risk and protect your home, so you don’t waste money and time in the long run:
- First, termites struggle to survive in a dry environment. So make sure you’re cleaning up those spills within your home, and keeping it appropriately dehumidified (especially in the summer months).
- Second, make sure that there are no leaks or holes in your home’s foundation that the termites could get through.
- Third, check that there is airflow throughout the house, and don’t let your indoor temps get too warm. Termites LOVE heat and humidity.
- Finally, you should always store firewood away from the house. (As I know from experience, this will also decrease the likelihood that mice living in your woodpile decide to migrate indoors.)
No one wants their house to end up destroyed or damaged, especially by something that may seem uncontrollable at first. Whether you think it’s a Formosan termite infestation (commonly found within the walls), subterranean (found underground), damp wood (drawn in by moist wood) or another type of termite, there will be a solution to your infestation. If you’re unsure, make sure you contact pest control as soon as possible.
2. Carpenter Bees
Unlike termites, carpenter bees (also known as wood bees) don’t actually EAT the wood they infest. Rather, they bore holes in the wood, and then create tunnels where they build their nests and lay their eggs. However, over time the damage they cause can be just as extensive as that caused by termites. And they aren’t fussy which wood they go after. Your wooden siding, wooden decks, wooden shingles, and even wooden lawn furniture are all prime nesting places, as far as they’re concerned.
And while carpenter bees are generally non-aggressive (and the males can’t sting), females WILL sting in self-defense or to protect their young. This could quickly make your deck or your favorite Adirondack chair a not-so-fun place to spend the summer!
Do You Have a Carpenter Bee Problem?
First, it’s helpful to know what you’re looking for. Carpenter bees look very similar to bumblebees, except while bumblebees are fuzzy all over, carpenter bees have shiny black hairless abdomens. And don’t be surprised if you see carpenter bees in your flower beds; they’re actually important pollinators in our ecosystem.
The difference between carpenter bees and other types that will help you spot them is their nesting behavior. Because they tunnel through wood, they don’t build hives like other bees. So if you have wooden structures on your property and see bees hovering around them all the time, that’s one hint you may have a carpenter bee problem.
Other telltale signs include the holes they bore in wood. These holes start out perfectly round. If the problem has been ongoing for quite some time, as with the pictures in this post from my father’s weathered wood barn, they become much larger. Patching them during the warmer months won’t work, because the bees will just bore around your patches to make new holes. Little piles of sawdust under the holes are another good indicator.
And if you see both bees AND woodpeckers paying a lot of attention to your wooden shingles or deck, that’s a surefire giveaway. The woodpeckers are tunneling further into your wood, to try to get at the bees’ offspring.
Making Your Wood Less Attractive to Carpenter Bees:
There are plenty of things the pros can do to deter carpenter bees from the wood on your property. Most of them involve chemicals and killing the bees. Given carpenter bees’ critical pollinator role in our ecosystem, I encourage you avoid this route if at all possible.
A better way to handle this problem is to make your wood less interesting to the bees in the first place, so they’ll turn to other wood sources for building their nests:
- If you really want to use chemicals, there are products you can dust on the edges of the bored wood in the early spring, to help make it less attractive to carpenter bees. It’s also important to plug existing holes each fall, by filling them in with wood putty (which you can then paint over).
- A bigger solution to this problem is to treat your wood. Raw, unfinished wood is what the bees are interested in. Painted, stained, or otherwise treated wood, not so much. (Especially if you use a paint or varnish with some gloss, so it’s hard for the bees to get a footing.) So if you like the look of weathered wood on your home, but have a carpenter bee problem, it’s time to rethink your exterior design.
This doesn’t mean carpenter bees will NEVER attack treated wood, as the painted “reserved” sign over my dad’s barn door indicates. But keep in mind, the bees have been drilling in the walls of his barn for decades now, so they aren’t that discriminating anymore.
Have you ever had to deal with damage caused by termites, carpenter bees, or other insects on your dwelling? How did you handle it? Let us know in the comments!
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