Common Wood Destroying Insects Found in New Jersey
There are several wood destroying insects that can be more than a nuisance in northern New Jersey. All if left untreated can actually cause serious structural damage to your home or business. With your property being, in most cases, your single largest investment, it is important to treat early to control infestations of carpenter ants, carpenter bees, powderpost beetles, or termites.
Carpenter Ant (Camponotus sp.). Any large, black ant seen in New Jersey is a carpenter ant. The largest ant species found in the U.S., carpenter ants are dull black and 5/8 inch long with powerful jaws. Carpenter ants get their name from their wood-tunneling behavior, leaving telltale piles of a sawdust-like by-product called "frass" below excavated areas. They are sometimes called wood eating ants.
These wood-destroying insects live in massive social colonies, carving huge galleries out of wood to house their nests. Typically living outdoors in rotting stumps and logs, carpenter ants will attack landscape trees through damaged branches, killing them as they tunnel into healthy tissue to expand their nests. Attracted to homes by water-damaged wood and stacked firewood, carpenter ants can cause significant structural damage to homes and wood structures, eventually resulting in structural collapse. Find out more about other types of ants and how some may appear to look like carpenter ants then review our ant control services.
Unlike termites that live in the ground but feed on wood, carpenter ants live inside the wood they attack but do not consume wood. These omnivores feed on a variety of insects and plant matter and often invade homes to forage for food. In the spring, carpenter ants expand their colonies by swarming but are poor flyers. Reproductives sent to form a new colony frequently land nearby. When carpenter ants are discovered in a home, it is quite common for other homes in the neighborhood to be infested.
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.). Solitary bees that live in mating pairs as opposed to social hives, carpenter bees tunnel into unpainted wood to lay their eggs. One of the larger bee species, carpenter bees are 1 to 1 1/2 inches long with thick bodies. Because of their similar yellow and black striped markings, carpenter bees are often confused with bumble bees. While their shiny abdomen differentiates carpenter bees from other bee species which have hairy abdomens, it is their loud buzzing and distinctive wood-boring behavior that identify these bees and give them their name.
Tunneling into soft wood to create their nurseries, carpenter bees drill perfectly circular 1/2-inch diameter holes into wood fascia boards, siding, deck rails and porches. They will also attack picnic tables, patio furniture and play sets. Carpenter bees do not ingest wood, but feed on pollen like other bees. After chewing a tunnel into the wood, the female mixes a sawdust-like by-product called "frass" with saliva to build individual nursery compartments, depositing one egg and a ball of pollen for food into each cell before walling it off.
While the female builds the nest and lays her eggs, the male guards the entrance to the nest. Only the usually docile female carpenter bee has a stinger, but the male's constant buzzing and aggressive, dive-bombing attacks when anyone nears the nest can be frightening and a nuisance when nests are located near a building entrance. Most active in late spring and early summer, carpenter bees tend to return to the place of their birth, and it is not uncommon to find several generations active in the same area. They will also reuse nesting tunnels if entrance holes are not repaired and sealed. Over time, multiple pairs of carpenter bees can extensively damage and even destroy wood structures. Don't let carpenter bees destroy your wood structures find out about our Seasonal Home Protection Plans to keep your home safe.
Powderpost Beetle (Lyctus brunneus). Only termites cause more damage to wood and wood products than powderpost beetles. These tiny wood-eating insects are 1/8 to 1/4 inch long with flat, narrow, reddish-brown bodies. Rarely seen, infestations of powderpost beetles are usually discovered by the damage they leave behind. Powderpost beetles lay their eggs on the surface of unfinished wood. When the larvae hatch, they bore into the wood and begin eating long, narrow, meandering tunnels through the wood. As they feed, larvae fill their tunnels with a fine, powdery byproduct called "frass." In time, all that remains is a wooden shell filled with powdery debris, giving these beetles their name.
Larvae overwinter in the wood, emerging as adults between April and July of the following year. When adult beetles emerge, they chew tiny, circular exit holes in the wood. These "shotholes" are a telltale sign of powderpost beetle infestation. As soon as adult beetles emerge, they mate and lay eggs, reinfesting the wood again and again as the cycle repeats. Several beetle generations are usually present in an infestation. Powderpost beetles often enter wood during storage or curing, emerging later from the finished product. These wood-destroying pests can cause significant damage to paneling, floors, decks, cabinets, woodwork, wood furniture and antiques.
Termite (Reticulitermes flavipes). Three types of termites are found in the U.S. - dampwood, drywood and subterranean. The Eastern Subterranean Termite is the most common termite in America and the only termite species found in northern New Jersey. One in 5 New Jersey homes can expect to be invaded by these voracious wood-eating pests. Using their saw-tooth jaws to bite off fragments of wood, a mature colony of 60,000 termites can devour 1 lineal foot of pine 2x4 every six months. A typical, well-established colony of 1 million termites can inflict significant structural damage, eating through nearly 33 lineal feet of 2x4 in a year. Left untreated, termite damage can lead to structural collapse.
Social insects, subterranean termites live in massive underground colonies under a strict caste system that assigns each insect a specific role – reproductive, worker or soldier. The vast majority of colony members are white, wingless, soft-bodied workers about 1/4 inch long that resemble a grain of rice. Spending their entire lives out of sight, inside walls and underground, subterranean termites can cause significant damage to a home before they are discovered. Two obvious indications of termite activity are mud tubes on exterior or basement walls and swarmers. Reproductives produced to expand the colony, swarmers look like winged ants. Poor flyers, they frequently land nearby and may attack the same structure from a new angle. Find out more information about termites and our termite control programs.