As a homeowner, you need to do everything you can to keep your wooden fences more pest-proof and in tiptop condition. Whether your property is sporting a wood fence with lattice or more rustic split rail ones, you have to make sure they stay clean, functional, and free from any pests.
Below, we have a simple guide that lists some of the most common wood-loving pests, alongside a series of steps to help you prevent them from ruining your fences. Let’s dive in!
5 Common Wood-Loving Pests to Watch Out For
So first let’s talk about the pests that normally plague wooden houses and fences. Left unchecked, they will wreak havoc in your property, either by boring into your wood fence with lattice or by blatantly eating anything wooden in your home. So if you see signs of any of the insects below, make sure you act at once.
Carpenter ants are commonly found in North America and in forested areas across the world. There are multiple carpenter ant species, with the most common ones in North America being larger. These are blackish or reddish in color, and some of them have wings which enable them to find new spots to build a colony. Carpenter ants normally move during springtime, around February to June in the west US coast, and from May through August in the east.
While carpenter ants don’t eat wood, they can still damage your wooden house and fences by burrowing into it to build nests. They usually start with wooden parts that are damp or riddled with moisture. From there, they’ll bore away into stronger wood, gradually causing serious damage. In some cases, they will also invade trees.
Signs of Carpenter Ant Infestation
- Piles of wood shavings or sawdust near wooden areas (e.g., baseboards, door jambs, window sills, etc)
- Rustling noises coming from the fences, walls, or hollow doors
- Shed insect wings near window sills, baseboards, and vents
- A few winged ants coming out of ceilings, walls, and other hidden crevices
Carpenters bees are also endemic in many parts of the US, particularly from Arizona to Florida in the east, as well as the northern areas of New York in the west. Most species are all black, although some have yellow or white hair. They should not be confused with bumblebees who have hairy abdomens (as opposed to the carpenter bees’ hairless, shiny ones).
Unlike the others on this list, carpenter bees are only considered as pests when they start tunneling into the wooden parts of your property. Normally, they only target trees, bamboo, and other plants with hard material. Nevertheless, you need to prevent them from going further in case you encounter them on your property. For aside from the damage they’ll cause, they might also end up stinging you if they feel threatened.
Signs of Carpenter Bee Infestation
- Circular holes in your walls, fences, doors, etc. These can be as small as 16 mm (0.63 in) or as big as 25 mm (1 in).
- A buzzing or vibrating sound coming from within your walls, beams, etc.
- Frass or sawdust below the holes they created
- Warped or cracked wooden parts throughout your house and fence.
There are over 160,000 known species of moths around the world. However, you’ll only probably encounter a few of them in your lifetime.
Technically speaking, adult moths aren’t that terrible. In fact, some of them can be pretty entertaining to watch whenever they’re flying around well-lit areas in your home. However, if you let them build a nest in your home or near your fence, they might end up destroying your property.
Believe it or not, their larvae have a large appetite for cellulose. The worst part is, they won’t just stop at your wooden fence. Once they’re done there, they’ll target your clothes, curtains, and even your bread and pasta. And in some cases, they could even cause itching, allergies, and other skin problems.
Signs of Moth Infestation
- Webbing, cocoons, and droppings near your fences, doors, walls, and wardrobe.
- Damaged food items, clothing, wooden furniture, and wooden house parts.
- Small larvae-like maggots near the dark corners of wardrobes, cupboards, and drawers.
- Silk cocoons near your closet, pantry, furniture, and fences.
- Adult moths can be seen crawling rather than flying (this suggests they already have a nest nearby).
With their stout, spear-like tails, Horntail or wood wasps belong to the hymenopteran family Siricidae, a unique variant of the wood-eating sawfly. A typical adult horntail is brownish, blueish, or blackish in color, with yellow or red spots in some parts. Their average length is around 4 cm (1.6 in) long, but some can grow as big as 5 cm (2.0 in) long (not counting the ovipositor).
Horntail wasps don’t sting or bite humans. Moreover, they prefer laying their eggs in dying or recently killed trees, notably balsam fir and spruce. So if your property is sporting a pre-cut wood fence with lattice, then there’s no need to worry. However, it’s an entirely different story if you own split rails fences. Because its wood is practically unfinished, it’s still vulnerable to attacks from horntail wasps.
Signs of Horntail Wasp Infestation
- Meandering galleries under dying or rotting tree barks (especially if you have balsam fir or spruce in your property).
- Fine boring sawdust and finding larvae cocoons near dying trees or split rail fences.
- Minor horntail wasp sightings near your garden, fences, and even inside the house.
Of course, this guide wouldn’t be complete if we don’t talk about termites. These eusocial insects evolved from cockroaches (as confirmed in recent phylogenetic studies). Like certain ants, bees, and wasps, they are divided between “workers” and “soldiers,” both of which are sterile. Reproduction usually falls down to a few fertile “Kings” and the fertile female “Queens.”
Sly and stealthy, termites can cause massive destruction to your home, furniture, and fences without you knowing it. They usually pick spots around your home that you don’t normally notice. From there, they’ll slowly grow their colony until it’s too late to stop the damage. This will leave you with painful expenses, as well as unnecessary disruptions in your business (assuming the infestation happens in your commercial property).
Signs of Termite Infestation
- Mud tubes on walls, fences, and furniture.
- Sightings of termite swarmers (flying termites) around your home and garden.
- Papery or hollow sounding timber.
- Tight fitting doors and windows.
- Termite droppings or discarded wings.
10 Tricks to Make Your Wooden Fences More Pest-Proof
So now that you know the five most common pests to watch out for, let’s move on to how you can keep them off your house and its wood fence with lattice. There are numerous ways to keep your property pest-free, depending on the insects you’re dealing with. However, the ten tricks below can apply for all of them.
Fill In the Cracks
Should any pests decide to invade your home, they’ll always start with its weakest spots. So do yourself a favor and check your house and fences for any cracks, holes, and other damages.
Once you’ve found all these cracks, holes, and minor damages, proceed with sealing them up. If you already have an infestation, then cleanse the fence with some pesticides first (more on this below). Then treat the surrounding areas as well for good measure.
Get Rid of Rotten Wood
But in case some of the posts and boards of your wooden fences are already rotten beyond repair, you have to replace them immediately. Otherwise, they’ll inadvertently attract carpenter ants, horntail wasps, and other pests, which could end up damaging the rest of your fence.
At the same time, get rid of any rotten logs, furniture, and other wood lying around your home and garden. These will also attract pests if you just left them where they are.
One of the reasons why pests are so attracted to rotten wood is that they can rely heavily on it as their water supply. By reducing moisture and water from your fence, you’ll practically cut them off from one of their basic needs.
There are numerous ways to do this. For example, you can get rid of the rotten wood as mentioned earlier. You can also paint the fence to make it more waterproof. Finally, you can make sure your plants don’t grow too near your fences.
Use Non-Toxic Insecticide to ensure your Wooden Fences more pest-proof
But to truly make sure no pests are lurking about in your home and your wood fence with lattice, you need to rely on good old insecticides from time to time. And for best results, you need to go for non-toxic ones.
Through non-toxic insecticides, you can keep your fences pest-free, while simultaneously making sure your pets and kids are safe around it. They’ll also pose less threat to your plants, allowing you to retain your garden. And as an added bonus, you’ll be doing your part to protect the environment.
Apply Paint or Sealer
Coating your fences with paint and any other sealers can accomplish a couple of things. First, it can help it repel water and moisture, preventing it from rotting and attracting pests as discussed above. Second, the sheer smell of the coats will deter any insects and even some small critters from having a go at your fences.
So make sure your fences get a fresh paint job at least once every two to three years. If you don’t want to paint it, then you can choose varnish instead. That way, you’ll bring out the wood’s inner beauty.
Try Insect Baits
Insect baits offer an easy and effective way to get rid of pests. Place them near the infested areas, and watch as the pests get lured into taking them. From there, you can either trap the insects or let them bring the morsels back to their colony (if you’re using poisoned bait, then it will kill the rest of them).
There are many insect baits for sale out there to choose from. But as with the insecticides, pick non-toxic ones to keep your housemates and pets safe.
Introduce Certain Plants
Adding certain plants to your garden will also help you keep your wooden fences free from pests. For example, mint and garlic come with natural substances and scents that are repulsive for termites. Meanwhile, geraniums and daisies have pheromones that can easily attract wood-friendly insects that prey on carpenter ants, termites, and wasps.
So if you haven’t yet, introduce these and other plants to your garden. Just make sure they aren’t too near your fence to prevent moisture from getting on it.
Introduce Their Predators
At the same time, you might want to introduce some of the pests’ natural predators into your garden. This is something you have to do more carefully, as you might end up replacing one group of pests with another.
Anyway, consider letting loose some roundworms like those beneficial nematodes. These microscopic creatures prey on termites and other insects as cats would on mice. Put the roundworms in a bucket of water, then pour the water on the infested areas. Within a few days, they’ll kill off the pests.
Regularly Clean Your Fence
Once you’ve done all the tips mentioned above, all that’s left is making sure your fence stays pest-free. To that end, you need to regularly inspect it, checking for new damages and infested areas. You don’t have to do the inspection every day. Once every one or two weeks will do.
Call Professional Pest Control
But in case the pest infestation is too much for you to handle on your own, better call your tested pest control. They’ll be able to handle the problem better than you ever will. Plus, with their tools and expertise, they can make sure no future infestations will occur.
Keep Your Wooden Fences Pest-Free
To keep your wooden fences for as long as possible, you need to keep it in pristine condition. By making sure it’s free from any pests, you can do just that! So whether your house sports a wood fence with lattice or a set of split rails, make sure you follow the tips above.