Termites are not the only pests in Houston that destroy wood. There are several other species of wood-eating and wood-burrowing insects that live in the city and that can do damage to your property.
If you see what looks like insect-related damage to the wood in or around your house, the nature of the holes and marks they leave in the wood can be the key to identifying and eliminating them.
Carpenter ants are named for their habit of destroying wood. These large, black ants will hollow out trees and wooden structures and carry off pieces of wood to build their nests. They don't eat wood like termites, but they can be nearly as destructive as termites, particularly to older wooden and wood-framed homes. These ants are highly destructive and can be a significant problem pest if left untreated.
Damaged wood is the chief sign you have carpenter ants. Carpenter ants leave behind sawdust-like particles similar to those left by termites, but their damage can be easily distinguished from termite damage by the nature of the holes they leave behind. When termites attack wood, the damage they leave behind looks rough and gnawed, while carpenter ants will leave smooth round holes that look like as if they were made by a drill or bore.
Carpenter ants are particularly attracted to homes with water leaks or damaged or rotting wood. They will usually gain access to home by crawling along pipes. In an infested home, a main colony will usually be found near the home outdoors and smaller sub-colonies within the home near the damaged wood. Repairing and replacing rotting wood and securely sealing the gaps around pipes will help keep carpenter ants out of your home. Infestations can usually be destroyed by locating and destroying the outdoor main colony and eliminating any sub-colonies inside the home.
Carpenter bees are medium-sized bees with adults approaching 1 inch in length. They can be distinguished by the striped black and yellowish orange hairs covering their upper bodies and smooth, shiny abdomens. Carpenter bees will chew smooth, round holes into wooden structures to nest and lay eggs. These nests are distinctive round holes approximately 1/2 inch in diameter than can extend an inch or so deep into the wood. Carpenter bees prefer to build their homes in untreated softwoods, and so they usually damage decks or sheds or outdoor structures.
Carpenter bees can be very resilient, so professional treatment and ongoing monitoring is usually required to get rid of them. Carpenter bees will return to the same spot to nest over multiple seasons and chew a new hole every year. These bees will also often return to the area where they first hatched to nest, so leaving the nests untreated can eventually increase the amount of damage the bees will do.
After carpenter bees have been eliminated, its important to seal the holes they've made to prevent them from becoming nesting grounds for wasps or other pests.
Deathwatch beetles are grayish-black beetles with splotchy covering on the top of their wings than can grow up to 1/4 inch in length. The deathwatch beetle gets its name from the clicking sound the males make to attract mates that was once believed to be the sound of the beetle counting down an impending death. Fortunately, most scientists now think that chances of dying because you heard the mating call of a beetle are fairly slim. However, the larvae of these beetle will gnaw their way deep into wood and can be very destructive to furniture and building structures.
The old house borer is a wood-destroying beetle that leaves damage very similar in appearance to termite damage. Adult beetles are grayish brown with long, curved antennae and dark spots on the side of their heads that resemble eyes. They are somewhat misnamed, since they most often damage homes that are under 10 years old, particularly those made of softwoods or pines.
Powderpost beetles and false powder post beetles are two distantly related species that cause very similar damage. The larvae of both these types of beetles will feed on wood, eventually reducing any infected wood to a fine powder. If left untreated, they can be a highly destructive pest. Because the beetles only eat wood in their larval stage, they are most often identified by the damage they leave behind, multiple pin-sized holes in the wood and a residue of very fine powdery sawdust-like material on the infected wood.
Powderpost beetles will do significant damage to trees, and will often infest garages and sheds, destroying wooden handles on tools. They can also destroy books and furniture, and will even sometimes eat rafters and hardwood floors. Seasoned hardwoods are particularly prone to infestation.