Firewood Bugs

January 5, 2017 

Don’t Let Firewood “Bug” You!

            One of my projects last weekend, actually one of my wife’s projects for me, was to split and stack some firewood closer to the house so it will be more accessible. This made me think of a common call I get each winter...  What to do when insects that hibernate in wood over the winter become active in homes when firewood is brought inside.

            When you start your firewood storage, you need to decide where to pile it for easy and quick access to your home. But you also need to take into consideration the insect pests that may be found inside those pieces of wood.

            There are many different insects that may overwinter in the wood during the winter months. Insects that may be found in the wood you use in your wood stove or fireplace include bark beetles, termites, carpenter ants, wood boring beetles as well as many other insects that might seek protection in crevices in or under the bark.

            These insects are not active now due to the cold winter temperatures, but they can become active again once they get inside your home. Typically, they are only a nuisance because they cannot survive in your home. A few tips to remember when making your wood pile for the winter are to not stack your wood pile directly on the ground and only bring wood inside as it is needed.

            The first point is to not stack your wood directly on the ground. This is important any time of the year.  This will help prevent termite from getting into your firewood. I have found that old pallets improve air circulation around the firewood and keep it off the ground. Termites can get into, and feed on, any type of wood... especially if it comes into direct contact with the soil.

            You also want to avoid stacking wood along your home’s foundation. If you pile wood against your house, especially with the pile starting directly on the ground, termites can detect the wood pile and work their way through the firewood and into your home.

            You also want to only bring inside the wood that you will use right away to avoid insects getting into your home and flying around. Wood boring insects will not come out of the wood and begin feeding on your furniture or any other wood material, but they will move around in your home, if you let the wood warm up. Wood that is stored in an area below 50 degrees will keep insects inside it in a dormant stage, meaning they continue to overwinter and not become active in your home.

            If you bring too much wood into your home at a time, the wood will warm up and the insect could emerge from the wood and fly or crawl around your home. If you only bring a few pieces of wood into your home at a time, you will burn it before the insects emerge and they will be destroyed in the fire.

            One thing you do NOT want to do is to treat firewood with an insecticide to try to control wood borne insects. This could result in toxic fumes when the firewood is stored or burned in your home.

            Having a fireplace is a wonderful way to warm up after being outside and to save money on the heating bills in the winter. I know firewood also helped me warm up outside as I split and stacked it! However, you need to make sure that you are not storing your wood in a manner that harbors insects and allows them to become active in your home.

            For more information on firewood insects or on harvesting and storing firewood, contact you local Nebraska Extension office.