Keep In The Warmth, But Keep Out The Pests! How To Avoid Bringing Pests Into Your Home This Winter

Home & Garden Articles

The warmth of a crackling fire on a winter evening is one of life's simplest, but best, pleasures. However, your contentment can quickly turn to horror when you discover that your wood pile is home to destructive insects and other organisms. Learn how to keep these pests from hitching a ride on your firewood into your home; here is what you should know:

Common firewood pests

In the United States, you are apt to encounter many, if not all, of the following pests that inhabit firewood. In cold weather, they will be in a state of hibernation inside the wood, so it is likely you will not actually see many of them until the weather warms...or after they enter your warm home. Here are the most common wood-eating pests:

  • Termites - you probably are already familiar with these pests that are capable of causing massive damage to your home. However, you may not know there are several species of termites. The ones most likely to inhabit firewood are dampwood termites (Zootermopsis). Dampwood termites are attracted to woodpiles that are moist, as their name suggests. Their colonies are not particularly large, at first, but that actually makes them more of an unseen threat if their small colony is tucked away inside a piece of firewood.
  • Carpenter ants - these large ants do not actually consume wood, but instead build tunnels and nests within it. However, their habit of tunneling and building can be destructive, and their appearance can also be startling to homeowners. Fortunately, it generally takes several years for a colony to develop to a size sufficiently large to cause significant damage.
  • Wood-boring beetles - this is a large group of multiple, related and unrelated, species of beetles. They all have the habit of boring into and consuming wood. In many cases, it will take an expert to identify the specific species at work. 
  • Fungi - while not a "creepy crawly" pest as the others listed above, fungal microorganisms are every bit a threat as any of those. Some species of fungi only do surface damage, while others are capable of rotting wood as moisture levels rise. If your firewood has been exposed to fungi spores, then it can actually transfer those spores into your home where they are released to do damage.

Keep the pests away

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to protect your home from a firewood-borne pest invasion; many of the preventative measures you implement should consist of reducing or eliminating moisture in your wood. Here are some tips that can help keep firewood from becoming a source of trouble:

  • Keep firewood off the ground - if possible, elevate your firewood stock so that it doesn't touch soil. Preferably, it should not touch any flat surface that might allow for prolonged exposure to water. This can accomplished by stacking it on a metal wood rack or other suitable structure.
  • Cover your firewood - place firewood under a roof to prevent rain, ice and snow from causing it to become waterlogged. If this isn't feasible, a tarp can be used to keep out moisture; just be sure to let it air out on sunny days.
  • Reduce the amount of firewood stored - by keeping a smaller stock of firewood on hand, you can reduce the amount of wood that can get wet and stay wet. Plus, keeping a smaller amount of wood will allow you to burn through it faster so that you don't give pests a chance to gain a foothold.
  • Store firewood away from your home - do not stack firewood next to your home, barn, fence or any other wooden structure. Doing so will trap moisture behind the stack and create an ideal habitat for the various pests that will attack wood in the pile and your home's exterior.
  • Burn mold and fungus covered pieces outside - burn firewood that has been infested with fungi in an outside fire. Never bring these pieces inside, or the spores can disperse through your home's interior.
  • Contact a pest control specialist - if you continue to have difficulty with firewood becoming pest-ridden, or you discover signs of pest infestation inside your home, your best bet is to contact a professional pest control specialist, like those at Greenleaf Organic Pest Management, to handle the problem. Many of these pests have species-specific requirements for effective eradication, and these professionals can provide what you need.


19 November 2014