New publication offers advice on managing wood-destroying pests

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A new publication offered by the Pesticide Education Program in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences provides recommendations for preventing and controlling infestations of wood-destroying insects.

Although aimed primarily at pest-control professionals, "Wood-Destroying Pests" provides information useful to homeowners who are confronting the problems the pests cause.

"The key to structural pest management is the concept of integrated pest management -- also known as IPM," said author Steven Jacobs, senior extension associate in entomology. "This can be defined as a way of combining tools to manage pests in an economical and effective way."

The manual covers the benefits of wood pests in forests, types of wood-destroying organisms, how structures get invaded and ways to tackle those problems.

Jacobs, whose specialty is urban entomology, explained that these pests are beneficial when they are turning a fallen tree back into soil. "But when trees are utilized to produce boards for a house and those same insects invade it, the competition becomes obvious," he said. "The beneficial insects now become pests."

Subterranean termites cause more damage to buildings in the United States than any other insect. In fact, Pennsylvania is within a region of moderate to heavy termite infestation. In the publication, Jacobs goes into detail about what these termites look like, how they interact with each other and the kind of damage they can cause.

The publication also mentions specific types of termites in different regions of the United States. For example, the Reticulitermes flavipes is the most common in Pennsylvania.

General preventative and corrective control measures for subterranean termites also are addressed in the manual. For preventative treatment, there are preconstruction and post-construction measures.

For preconstruction, an insecticide is applied to the soil around the structure's foundation and to soil that will be covered with a concrete slab. Post-construction measures are the same -- place a chemical barrier between the soil and the structure to protect the house against attacks by termites.

The publication also offers information about soil treatment outside the house, as well as in basements and crawl spaces. Also covered is the use of radiant heat, termite baiting and wood treatment.

Termites pose the biggest threat to buildings, but Jacobs describes other pests in the manual, including eight types of wood-destroying beetles, wood-infesting beetles that require no treatment, bees, ants and wasps.

The manual details the types of proper inspection a pest-management professional must do to pinpoint how much damage has been done to a structure and what measures must be taken to correct it.

"Proper management of wood-destroying pests requires the professional to be well versed in the signs of infestation and to be capable of determining the species of insect involved," Jacobs said. "Misidentification of a pest and an incorrect management strategy could result in prosecution for misuse of a pesticide."

The publication is available online.   

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Last Updated November 06, 2012