Damage from termites vs. other pests


July 28, 2022

Anna Berry

Anna Berry, technical director at B&G

Termites are the most notorious of the WDO category. Because of that, we (or our customers) can be quick to assume that any wood damage is caused by termites. But some species of ants, bees and beetles also are guilty of damaging wood, and their treatment options may be significantly different than termites.

Fortunately, the habitat and damage these insects cause is often different, too, allowing for identification even when the insect itself is inaccessible. For example:

  • Powderpost beetles include the lyctids, anobiids and bostrichids, and tend to damage furnishings, hardwood floors, and pallets. Some members look similar to stored product pest beetles, and can be misidentified for them when on a wooden pallet. Inspection of the pallet may reveal powder that is further mistaken for the commodity that’s on the pallet. But further inspection should show small round holes: The resulting powder isn’t flour or a baking mix, but wood.
  • Wood borers and bark borers include species of beetles, moths and wasps. For most wood borer species, larvae create tunnels in damaged trees, but there are species of hardwood borers that attack healthy trees.
  • Winged carpenter ants often are mistaken for termites because of their habitat (although they excavate wood, but don’t eat it) and their size and shape. But there are some key differences for identification, including the ant’s elbowed antennae, wings of different lengths, and the petiole, or “pinched waist.”
  • Female carpenter bees will excavate tunnels into exterior unfinished wood for nesting, and subsequent generations will use the same tunnels over and over again, lengthening the tunnel each time and increasing the risk of structural damage. We see these as round holes initially, but predators, such as woodpeckers, may expand those holes.


About the Author

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BERRY is a technical director at B&G Equipment. Previously, she worked as training manager for McCloud Pest Management Solutions, South Elgin, Ill. She is a Board Certified Entomologist, ServSafe certified and instructor and proctor for the National Restaurant Association and is certified in HACCP. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Oregon and a master’s degree in grain science from Kansas State University.

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