Termites in Firewood: Can I Take Wood Home with White Ants in It?

Termites in Firewood: Can I Take Wood Home with White Ants in It?

Termites in Firewood: Can I Take Wood Home with White Ants in It?
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As winter approaches, many of us turn to the warmth of a fire to keep our homes cozy. As they say, firewood warms you twice: once when you cut it, and again when you burn it. But finding termites in your firewood can make some people shiver.

The short story: Finding termites in firewood is normally nothing to worry about, but make sure there’s no nest or new reproductives in there or you could cause some trouble.

People ask me all the time whether bringing home termites in firewood is a bad thing. But read on and you’ll see that it’s not the end of the world.

Termites Need Constant Ground Contact (Most of the Time)

Subterranean termites are social insects that rely on constant pheromone connections and sealed mud tunnels to navigate underground. Their complex network allows them to locate food sources and return to their central nest.

Removing the firewood from the ground severs this connection and disorientates the termites. So they’re unable to find their way out of the wood and back to the nest.

Hollowed our log from termites in firewood.
After taking this firewood from ground contact, the Coptotermes termites attacking it could no longer sustain themselves.

Subterranean termites can survive with no ground contact but they need a constant source of moisture to do so and this is very rare.

If There’s No Queen, There’s No Problem

Only the termite queen has the ability to reproduce. But she and the king stay home in the central nest 24/7 making new termites. You won’t normally see king and queen termites in firewood, because they’re busy… reproducing.

The worker and soldier termites, on the other hand, are the ones in the wood you’re most likely to see. However, they’re sterile and not able to lay eggs. So the termites in the firewood you’re bringing home are not able to restart the colony and multiply.

Active termites in firewood log on the ground
Although worker termites can be destructive to timber, they can’t lay eggs and grow the colony.

Termites in Dry Firewood Won’t Survive Long

If you store firewood in a dry area, termites in the firewood gradually dehydrate and perish within a few weeks. However, in damp conditions, they can survive up to two years, chewing away at your source of heat.

So if you bring home white ants in your trailer of firewood, store it off the ground and undercover to make sure it dries out over the summer. This will kill off any termites that might have hitched a ride home with you.

Logs stored outside in the weather
Wood stored outside in the weather may not dry out enough to kill termites quickly. Store it under a tarp or in a woodshed.

When Could Termites in Firewood Be a Problem?

1. Presence of New Reproductives

Firewood containing newly developed reproductive termites could start a new colony within your wood stack. This is most likely to happen if you’re cutting wood in the summer months when the termite colonies are sending out their new kings and queens.

Check your firewood for termites with wings or termites with larger abdomens and little wing buds. If it has them in it, either leave it there or spray it before you bring it home.

2. Bringing Home a Termite Nest in Firewood

While rare, you might bring home firewood containing a termite nest. This scenario is less likely, as most firewood is in the “feeding front” of termite colonies.

A tree containing a termite nest.
This tree in Howlong, NSW has a termite nest in it. The queen was still inside, so taking this wood to another location would just move the colony along with it.

Did I Bring These Termites Home or Are They “Local”?

Termites can do a lot of damage in a very short time, so it’s hard to tell how long they’ve been in your firewood pile. But a bit of investigating will give you an idea.

If the firewood is all sealed in place with a lot of mud packing, it’s likely the termites have built a sub-nest or came up from the ground, meaning the nest is close by.

White sub-nest in a wood stack
This wood stack is nice and dry undercover but has a sub-nest (or “bivouac”) in it. So, termites definitely came up from the ground.

If this is the case, you need a professional pest controller to do a termite treatment. Just moving the firewood is not a solution, as the rest of the termites will continue travelling under the ground looking for more food. You need to use termite baiting or other methods of termite control to eliminate the colony.

If you placed the wood there recently, and the termites are just inside the logs with no mud trails, then you should be fine. Store it under cover and off the ground and they should die off. A termite inspection is still a good idea, just to make sure.

How Can I Stop Termites Getting Into My Firewood?

If you’ve brought a big load of wood home, you probably want it to last until next Winter without termites eating it up. Here are a few tips to help stop this happening, and to help make your yard less attractive to termites in the process.

1. Store It Properly

Store your firewood under cover and off the ground. You should ideally store it on concrete with at least 150mm of clearance around the edge of the concrete. This clearance is to discourage foraging termites from finding the firewood.

If you don’t have a good bit of concrete, some corrugated iron (with no screw holes!) will be fine if you’re going to use the wood within a year or so.

Don’t store firewood against your house. Termites can come up the joint between paths and the wall and get into the firewood. Then it’s only a short step into your house.

White ant mud tunnels entering a log stack from below
This wood stack in Rutherglen is up on concrete, but termites still found a way in (see the mud tunnels on the concrete edge). Make sure there’s a margin around the edge so termites are less likely to find it.

2. Inspect Your Firewood

Before bringing firewood indoors, look for signs of termite activity. Keep an eye out for mud packing and live white ants inside the timber. Make sure there are no termites with wings or wing buds in there, as they could be new queens waiting to start a nest.

3. Use It Quickly

Try to avoid storing firewood for several years without using it, especially if you’re storing it out in the weather. The longer the wood is there, the more attractive it will be to termite colonies in the area.

Termites on the ground afer removing a log.
A few seconds after lifting a log that was there for a few years. Moving your firewood quickly makes it less attractive to termites.

Although termites in firewood are rarely a problem, taking smart steps can help reduce the danger. By understanding termite behaviour and taking preventive actions, you can enjoy your fire without inviting these unwanted guests. Stay informed and make sure your home stays safe.

If you need more information, you can call us from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday on 02 6032 7137 or visit our Contact Us page for more ways to get onto us.

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