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Insects in firewood

Most insects living in the wood are only a nuisance
Photo courtesy of USDA

We have a fireplace in our house, but I’m glad it’s gas. I can't stand the thought of bringing in firewood with all kinds of bugs living in it!

Entomologist Laura Jesse at Iowa State University puts firewood insects into two categories. The first group includes creepy crawlies such as pill bugs, centipedes and spiders that hang out in the woodpile. If these creatures come inside with an armload of wood, they're annoying, but won't cause any harm.
   
The second group includes carpenter ants and termites.

"If you pick up a log and carry it into your house and it turns out there's termites in it, you're not bringing termites into your house because the queen is in the soil. So you're just basically bringing in some workers who are out there foraging for food," says Jesse. "But, if you do keep that woodpile near your house, it is a sign that there are termites active in the area, and if it's piled up along the side of your house, it's kind of a way that termites might be able to get up into the wood of your house."  

You'll see mud tubes on the wood if termites are present. Carpenter ants hollow out water-damaged wood, and if it's stacked against the house, it provides an avenue for the ants to come inside.

When wood-boring beetles come in and warm up, the the larva will feed, and the adult beetles emerge. They're harmless, but it's a little startling to see a big beetle fly across the room.

"What we really recommend is that you just bring in a few days' supply of firewood at a time," says Jesse. "It's really important just to leave it outdoors and as long as it's staying cold, they aren't moving around and if you bring it indoors and burn it right away, you're burning up the insects with no harm at all."

Jesse does not recommend treating firewood with insecticide. It's useless because the bugs are sheltered within the wood. And, if you burn the treated wood, harmful vapors are released into the house.

Learn more about insects in firewood, prevention, and control

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