We have a firewood pile outside of our house and we were wondering if termites would be attracted to it. After looking it up online, we couldn’t find a good answer, so I did some more digging. Here’s what I found.
Firewood attracts termites if the wood is in direct contact with the soil. This is because termites nest in the ground. For best results, store firewood at least 6 inches off of the ground. Termites prefer moist wood and darkness, so properly splitting, stacking, and storing firewood highly deters them.
While finding termites in firewood isn’t likely, how do you tell if your firewood is infested, and what’s the best way to store firewood to deter termites? Let’s take a look.
How to Tell if Your Firewood Has Termites
The best way to tell if your firewood has termites is by inspecting it. Termites drill holes in the firewood, but even more noticeable are the fine sawdust piles they leave behind (their feces).
If the infestation is bad enough, you’ll see the termites themselves. If you aren’t familiar, they look like winged ants.
Termites also build mud tunnels to get from place to place. These tunnels are built on the ground’s surface and provide the termites with darkness and moisture. They’re usually visible, especially on driveways, decks, and other flat structures.
You can follow these mud tunnels to check where the termites are headed or sometimes even find their nest. Their nests are typically located in the ground, but they use coverage to traverse such as mulch, leaf, or wood piles.
If you do find that your firewood has termites, don’t worry, you can still use it.
What to Do With Firewood That Has Termites
Firewood that has termites is still great to burn (as long as it’s been seasoned/dried).
However, I recommend only bringing in the firewood that you need for the day and leaving the rest outside. Ideally, this is at least 30 feet away from any wood structures.
“There is no real risk of termite infestation through wood that is brought inside and burned immediately, but firewood that is stacked against the house, not used and left for the next year creates a high risk of termite infestation.”Dr. Blake Layton, Jr., Entomology Professor, MSU Extension Service
When you bring in firewood with termites in it, you’re only bringing in the termite workers. Like ants, the termite queen lives in a nest in the ground, so there’s little to no risk in the termites spreading indoors.
Burn the firewood that has termites first, and make sure it’s gone before spring (to avoid the termites from spreading). As mentioned, only bring in the firewood that you need for the day. Otherwise, you risk termites leaving the wood and traveling to unwanted places.
Firewood that sits inside for more than a day also can bring mosquitos and flies, even in the dead of winter.
However, if you’re not comfortable bringing termite firewood indoors, here are some ideas to dispose of the infested wood:
- Use it in a bonfire
- Dispose of it in the landfill
- Compost it (compost gets to 135-160ºF, so it kills almost everything)
Avoid spraying your firewood with pesticides as burning it releases the chemicals into the air in your home. Most sprays are active 3 months after application.
How to Store Firewood to Prevent Termites
Termite prevention in firewood is all about avoiding wood contact with the ground and preventing access from their tunnels. Because of this, the best way to prevent termites from infesting firewood is to store it properly.
Here are the best ways to store firewood and avoid termites:
- Split – After cutting, split firewood into quarters for the best rate of seasoning. The increased surface area makes the wood dry much faster and easier to stack. Split and dried wood is not appealing for termites as they prefer whole logs.
- Stack – Layer the firewood in stacks to promote airflow. This prevents the termites from hopping to other firewood and also dries it out quicker. Since bark is a natural pest barrier, place the firewood bark side down. The top row should be bark side up to protect the wood from the elements.
- Store – Keep the firewood at least 6 inches off of the ground and in a hot, dry place if possible. A firewood shed is the best option, but a rack is the next best. Use a roof or tarp to cover the top of the firewood, but keep the sides exposed to airflow. Avoid storing firewood indoors to season.
Firewood takes at least 6-12 months to season, but some hardwoods such as oak might take longer. Once firewood is seasoned, it’s highly unappealing to termites as they prefer firewood that’s moist and in darkness.
The worst spot to store firewood is along the house and on the ground. Since termites find firewood from the soil, keeping the firewood at least 6 inches off of the ground is one of the best things you can do.
To avoid termites from finding your house, deck, or other wood structures, store firewood at least 30 feet away.
Visually inspect your firewood piles once a month to see if there are any signs of termites. Again, look for any piles of sawdust, holes in the wood, mud tunnels, or the termites themselves.
If your firewood does not have a roof, consider using a tarp or other waterproof cover. By protecting the firewood from the rain and snow, the pile seasons quicker and makes termite infestation less likely.
However, only cover the top of the firewood pile to allow the sides to receive proper airflow. Dry firewood not only deters termites but carpenter ants as well. Termites also don’t like light, heat, cold, and salt.
Kiln-dried firewood is even drier than normally seasoned firewood (less than 8% moisture vs less than 20%) and termites find it even less desirable. But, it’s not necessary to kiln dry firewood just for termite prevention as regularly seasoned firewood will do just fine.
If you inspect your firewood and notice termites (either from holes, sawdust piles, mud tunnels, or the termites themselves), your firewood is likely infested.
The good news is that it’s still usable as firewood. Just make sure to only bring in the firewood that you need for the day and keep the rest at least 30 feet from the house to deter termites from spreading.
If you’d like to immediately dispose of the termite firewood instead, consider throwing a bonfire, composting the wood, or simply tossing it in the dumpster.
To best prevent termites in the future, properly process firewood by splitting, stacking, and storing it to promote dryness. As long as it’s at least 6 inches from the ground, and 30 feet from a house, deck, or other wooden structure, termites will have a hard time getting to it.