Murder hornets aren’t the scariest bugs out there

July 1, 2020 by PEMCO Insurance

OK, yeah, a hornet as big as your thumb is pretty terrifying.

But for homeowners, the real threat this time of year comes from wood-chewing bugs eager to turn your home into their home. They cause thousands of dollars in damage across the Northwest and, unfortunately, since pest control is a maintenance issue, your homeowners insurance is unable to help you cover the costs for repair.

If you notice any of the signs below, investigate further and consider consulting a professional pest-control service to assess the severity and offer solutions (including ecofriendly options).

​Signs of trouble ​What it could be ​How they damage your homePrevention or treatment

· White “ants”
· Visible wood damage
· Piles of shed wings
· Wood that sounds hollow when tapped
· Clicking noises coming from the wall
· Mud tubes extending from the ground to a wood surface

​Termites​Termites can quietly colonize a structure for years, eating their way through timbers undetected until the damaged wood collapses.

Different species choose different habitats, ranging from underground, to dry wood to wet, rotting wood.

Termites are incredibly destructive. If you suspect them, get a professional inspection and treat immediately. Fumigation may be needed if the problem is severe (more below).

For prevention, seal cracks and joints in your foundation, minimize wood-to-earth contact, remove rotten stumps from your yard, move woodpiles away from the house and deal with any excess-moisture issues promptly.

Dry-wood termites enter your home through exposed or infested wood, so be careful about any reclaimed barn wood or flea-market finds you bring home.

· Crawling or flying black ants, about ½ inch long
· Visible wood damage
· Rustling sounds in a wall
· Piles of fine sawdust
​Carpenter ants​Carpenter ants can chew through framing in your home from the inside out. Left unchecked, an infestation can lead to warped framing, doors and windows that stick, sagging ceilings and more.​The flying ants you see are often scouts in search of new nest sites and may come from a mature nest on your property. If you find it, you may be able to treat it with spray from the hardware store. Consider a professional inspection to make sure the problem isn’t bigger than you realize.
· Small brownish beetles (often dead)
· White larvae in wood
· Powdery sawdust the consistency of baking soda
· Small bore holes (size of a pencil lead) in wood
Clicking noises coming from wood or walls
​Wood-boring beetles, including powderpost and deathwatch beetles​Adults lay eggs in wood and the larvae chew their way out, emerging as adult beetles.

Severe infestations cause wood to crumble.
If the problem is confined to a few boards or a piece of furniture, you may be able to just remove and replace the section of infested wood.

Prevent future infestations by keeping wood surfaces painted or sealed, improving ventilation (so wood stays dry) and even removing the bark from firewood before bringing it into the house.
​· Swarming, aggressive “bees” that are attracted to garbage and water
· Gray, papery nests under eaves and decks
​Wasps​Wasps chew and partially digest wood as the building material for their nests. Although less destructive to wood than other pests, they pose a sting hazard to people and pets.​Hardware-store insecticides (in spray cans that shoot a long stream) may be a good DIY option for small nests. Spray nests late in the evening when the wasps are less active, and use layers of protective clothing.

For prevention, keep garbage cans tightly covered and wash them periodically to remove odor, keep gutters free-flowing so wasps aren’t attracted to them as a water source and keep bushes trimmed.

To control wasp populations, you can consider hanging wasp traps (filled with liquid and baited with meat or pet food), although you might find them messy and unpleasant to handle.


Insect and moisture problems often appear together. You can make your home less attractive to all kinds of bugs (including roaches, silverfish and mosquitos) by repairing leaks promptly, ensuring your property has good drainage and using adequate ventilation in kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms. You may want to consider adding water sensors – great peace of mind that also could earn you a Protective Device Discount on your insurance!

A word about fumigation

Fumigation, that is, sealing off a home and treating it with an insecticide fog, may be your only choice for a serious infestation. It's no DIY project, and you'll want to check references for the professional pest-control company you choose.

Some stay-safe tips during the process:

  • Plan to stay in a hotel for at least two days. No pets should remain on the property, even dogs and cats that normally live outdoors. Take your houseplants, too.
  • Remove (or seal in approved fumigation bags) all food, opened or not; pet food; medicine and dental products. That includes food in the refrigerator and freezer. Empty the ice maker and turn it off.
  • Open drawers, closets and even plastic garment bags so fumes can both circulate and escape.
  • Turn off the air conditioner and ask your utility company to turn off the gas, too.
  • Follow instructions to thoroughly air out your home before moving back in. Your pest control specialist should test for chemical fumes before you return.

Share on social media

Comments on this post