Question: I was looking at a house that had some beam damage in the
basement from some type of insect. It is in Jackson, Miss. I had a friend
look at it, and he said it was probably termite damage, and I should stay
away from it. My question is could it be ants instead of termites causing
the damage? I really like the house and it is a great deal. I would kinda
hate to miss out on it because I was misinformed.
ANSWER: Wood that is infested or damaged by one of the several wood-infesting insects-including subterranean and drywood termites, powderpost beetles, wood-borers and carpenter ants has some characteristics that can be used to help identify the pest.
Subterranean termite-infested wood is characterized by the presence of earthen tubes over the surface, and soil-lined galleries inside the wood. Termites do not produce ”sawdust” in the wood; the primary evidence of the presence of these termites is the soil in the wood. There are few to no openings (holes) in the surface of the wood.
Wood infested with drywood termites is characterized by presence of small (rounded and seedlike) pellets that collect in one portion of the galleries. The galleries themselves may be narrow and smooth-sided, but they contain no soil and there are no mud tubes or tunnels in the wood. There are few to no openings in the surface of the wood, except for a few places where the pellets may be pushed out.
Wood infested with powderpost beetles may show signs of piles of powdery sawdust; this material is fine powder and with no fibers, it may feel a little gritty when rubbed between your fingers. The holes close to the sawdust will be small (size of pencil lead) and round.
Wood infested by a wood borer (typically the old house borer) will have large, oval holes and the sawdust coming from these holes will be a fine powder, with perhaps some barrel-shaped clumps in it.
Wood infested by carpenter ants has extensive, smooth-sided galleries, and there may be some fiberlike wood shavings in one portion of the gallery system. Sometimes this material is pushed out of the galleries at one location. The wood is also characterized as usually having some amount of wood decay evident, perhaps as dark stains.
As a home is typically one’s largest investment, you would want to be sure what the infestation is and what is the best way to protect this investment. Call your local Orkin Branch Office and ask for a home inspection. A highly trained Orkin Inspector will come to the house, identify the infestation, assess the situation and develop either a preventive or corrective treatment protocol backed by science that best meets your needs.