Termites are one of the most common pests in the United States. They feed on just about anything that contains cellulose—wood, paper, cardboard, and even dead insects or animals. While they may not seem like a huge problem at first, termites can cause extensive damage to your firewood storage if you don’t take steps to protect it.
The best way to avoid termites in your firewood is to store it off the ground, away from wooden structures, under a cover, and in a dry condition with less than 20% moisture.
If you use a lot of firewood then I would recommend picking up a moisture meter for checking how wet your firewood supply is – this can help with determining the seasoning time. Preventing a stack of firewood from being infested with termites can make your entire winter much more comfortable and is worth the small cost of piece of mind.
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Tips to Avoid Termites
- Avoid stacking firewood against the wall of wooden structures, buildings or trees
- Keep your firewood as dry as possible with less than 20% moisture
- Cover your firewood with a tarp – termites prefer wet, damp wood
- If possible store firewood off the ground
- Don’t spray your firewood with flammable insecticides
- Split your firewood into smaller pieces
- Use up your firewood within the year to avoid it sitting there for extended periods
Avoid storing firewood inside your home. Keep in mind that any firewood storage can hold termites, and you don’t want to bring them into your home and infest your wooden home.
Signs to Look For Termites in Firewood
- Look for tunnels within the wood. This could be evidence of more than just termites including carpenter ants, woodborers, bark beetles and horntail wasps. To help tell the difference, termite tunnels are more likely to be lined with mud.
- Find a live termite. Termites have two similarly sized sets of wings with straight antennae. They can also be wingless, soft-bodied creamy-white insects. Here is a great guide for identifying whether the insect you found is a termite.
- Knock on a piece of wood. Termites eat from the inside out, so a hollow sounding piece of wood can be a sign of a termite infestation.
- Look for termites and tunnels in nearby wooden structures, trees, or the ground. Try and find their source.
How to Treat Termites in Firewood
Taking a proactive approach to pest prevention is always the best option; however, if you have found yourself in need of an exterminator and have termites that need to be treated, there are several things you can do beforehand to prevent them from invading your home.
- Sunlight – while you should keep your firewood covered to keep it dry, you also want the sides to be in sunlight. Termites live in darkness, so putting their colony into the sun will mean that they will naturally try and find more suitable environments.
- Dry it – termites like damp wood, so if your can dry out your wood through sunlight, air flow, or splitting into smaller pieces then this will encourage the insects to leave for better food sources elsewhere.
- Chemical Treatment – investigate at your local hardware store some insecticides such as permethrin dust or arsenic trioxide. Be extremely careful using these hazardous chemicals if you aren’t experienced using them.
- Pest Control – if you have a lot of firewood at risk then bring in the experts. You don’t want to try DIY options that might not work and still risk losing your winter supplies.
- Burn it – the last option is to just burn the damaged wood. Try and quarantine the infested logs from the rest of your firewood storage and burn it.
How to Store Firewood to Avoid Termites
In my point of view, prevention is better than a cure. If you intend on using firewood every year then you should make sure your firewood storage is set up correctly so that you have the lowest likelihood of getting a termite infestation in the first place. Termites will eat both softwood and hardwood, so you will need to build a proper storage facility regardless of the type of firewood you choose.
The first step is to make sure you store your firewood off the ground. Termites moves over the ground and through tunnels, so having an elevated platform or concrete/brick base will cut off this entry point.
Keep your wood dry. Termites love moist and rotten woods, so keep your firewood dry by giving your stockpile a roof or a tarp to avoid rain from wetting it and keeping it dry all year long.
I personally recommend this Viking Moisture Meter. It allows you to accurately gauge how wet your firewood is and whether it is sufficiently seasoned or not. Over time you can also see how quickly the moisture is dropping and how much longer you need to keep your firewood dropping until it is seasoned and ready to burn.
Press the sharp pins into the wood and you will quickly see the readout show the moisture ranging from 6% to 60%. It also has a green, yellow, and red backlit LCD screen depending on whether the wood is dry enough, so you don’t need to remember the actual values.
You should also allow your firewood to get contacted by sunlight – this keeps the wood dry and scares off termites who prefer to live in dark locations. This means that you need to design your storage roof at a height and angle so that it prevents rain but still allows sunlight, at least for a few hours a day.
Keep the sides open – this allows the wind to continue to dry out your firewood. This also helps to speed up the seasoning process.
Turnover your stockpile regularly. Ideally you will empty your firewood at the end of each winter and refill it annually, allowing for sufficient seasoning time. This prevents individual logs from attracting termites that then breed and multiply throughout the entire firewood stack.
Waking up and finding termites have infested your entire firewood storage is a heartbreaking experience – trust me, I have been there. In this case prevention is certainly better than a cure. Storing your firewood off the ground, covered from rain, and open to the sun and air drying should be standard practice to keep your wood safe from wood eating insects.