Common Wood Destroying Insects

March 10, 2023

Wood-destroying insects are always a concern for homeowners, with the most egregious of the insects being termites. Common wood destroying insects in houses include termites, powderpost beetles, and carpenter bees.

Potential damage caused by each of these insects results in the destruction of wood where infestation occurs. Let’s discuss each of these pests and how to identify signs of infestation.

Signs of Wood-Destroying Insects


Termites are the most common type of wood destroying insect in a house and are found in warm, moist climates.

Naturally, southern, southeastern, and southwestern states are regions where termites thrive. Dry wood, wet wood and subterranean termites inhabit all these regions. Often, it is difficult to locate the infestation in your house when termites invade.

Some common signs of termite infestation include shelter tubes (pencil sized mud tunnels) on your foundation; multiple, small dirt spots clustered on your walls and ceilings; and/or long, vein-shaped grooves in your wood floor, baseboard, and trim features of your house.

Structural damage, if any, can be difficult to detect without intrusive investigation. Many times, termites travel on the wood surface without boring into it and causing structural damage. The termite activity may only present on the exterior of the wood as shown here.

Often, the only real way to investigate termite damage is to remove some of the wall and/or ceiling finishes in your house.

However, investigation may also reveal structural damage in the form of damaged framing. An easy way to check for structural damage is to stab the framing material with a screwdriver.

Structural damage can easily be detected by the embedment of the screwdriver into the wood. If you identify structural damage, usually the damaged framing material is replaced or repaired by supplementally installing additional framing.

Once a termite infestation is observed, investigation is usually required. Damage often varies and may be minimal to substantial. Investigations may require the services of contractors to remove building finishes during the investigation and pest control operators to offer opinions on insect activity.

Be aware – not all notices of termite activity mean that structural damage has occurred.

Powderpost Beetles

signs of wood-destroying insects

Powderpost beetles are most commonly recognized in raised foundations.

The climate of raised foundation often provides for a damp moist environment of these insects. Larvae from powderpost beetles bore into framing members and eat into the wooden fibers of the material. As the larvae exit the wood, such as wooden beam shown here, small holes (about the size of a pencil point) are formed on the exterior surface of the wooden frame.

Damage from this infestation may occur in the form of concealed tunnels inside the frame member and decay in the wood frame caused by exposure to moisture due to the increased surface area of the exit holes in humid environments.

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bee infestation is easier to detect as the holes bored into a house are generally visible as shown here.

Plus, carpenter bees can be a nuisance as they may be easily seen, and heard, during their active infestation periods. Carpenter bees bore into wood creating holes commonly ranging from ¼” to a ½” in diameter. The larvae bore into the wood creating tunnels in addition to the bored holes.

If you see signs of wood-destroying insects in your house, consultation with a licensed pest control operator is encouraged as professionals are needed for guidance to manage this circumstance.

If damage is detected, licensed contractors and other professionals may be called upon to remedy damage caused by these insects.

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