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7 insects that eat wood

The wood – eating insects , or insects that feed on wood, made a fundamental role in nature. However, in rural or urban environments these animals can cause serious problems.

From AgroCorrn we invite you to continue reading to learn about this topic and discover 7 insects that eat wood , their characteristics, names and photos.

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What are xylophagous insects – characteristics

It is called ” xylophagous ” those organisms that are capable of digesting wood so that they can take advantage of its nutrients. For example, there are other animals that can gnaw or take advantage of wood, but they do not give it a food use.

These insects have different adaptations that allow them to take advantage of a material that, in general, is not digestible. It must be taken into account that wood has large amounts of cellulose and lignin, both materials with very regular bonds and of strong consistency, from which it is difficult to take advantage of energy. Thus, these insects have mouthparts adapted to the wear of this material, and also live in symbiosis with bacteria that lodge in their digestive systems and allow them to digest it.


Termites are divided into three different ecological groups:

  • Moist wood termites: as their name suggests, they live in moist woods, which have assimilated moisture from the surrounding environment. They are common, for example, in coniferous forests, or small wooden piers.
  • Dry wood termites: they live in dry wood, both in natural environments and in urban areas. They can withstand long periods without water, and are quite dangerous for constructions. Especially important are those wooden constructions with historical-heritage value.
  • Subterranean termites: they live under constructions, and can seriously damage their foundations. They can even become pests.


These insects feed on wood in their larval stage . They produce a characteristic sawdust called “quera”. Woodworm is very rare in nature; However, it can cause great damage in anthropic or human environments, since the larvae rarely settle in living wood, preferring dry and warm environments, such as those found in furniture.

Hylotrupes bajulus or borer bug

Like the woodworm , the Hylotrupes bajulus (also known as ” large woodworm “, due to the large size of the adults, or ” wood moth “) is a beetle that lays its eggs in the wood, taking advantage of small cracks or other natural holes that can serve as protection when hatching occurs. Their larvae are whitish in color and feed on wood at birth, also giving rise to a characteristic dusty sawdust. This wear and tear activity can become audible when you are quiet. In contrast to woodworm, the holes left by adults are not circular, but rather have irregular edges.

Anobium punctatum or wood beetle

The wood beetle is a brown or reddish beetle. As in the two previous cases, the females lay their eggs in the natural cavities of the wood, generally dry wood. When the larvae hatch, they begin to excavate galleries. This pest is characterized by the long periods of time it covers: the larvae can remain for up to 3 years, digging galleries and feeding on the wood. The pupal stage of Anobium punctatum is completed near the surface of the wood, since adults do not have a specialized oral apparatus that allows this excavation.

Wood wasps or Urocerus gigas

The wasps wood ( urocerus gigas ) belong to the family Siricidae, a subdivision of Hymenoptera. The females deposit their eggs in the wood of the trees and the larvae are those that excavate galleries. Adults have a more or less cylindrical body and are usually dark (blue or brown), with some areas of yellow pigmentation. They have in common with Anobium punctatum the long larval stage , which can be more than three years, and that the pupae are located close to the surface.

Wood-eating insects: how to control them ecologically

Xylophages are present in various ecosystems (such as coniferous forests ). As we have seen, many species are capable of feeding on wood only in their larval stage; This is a strategy that many species (including mammals) present, in which the juvenile phase has a different diet than the adult one in order to avoid competition between them, and to cover more available resources.

In any case, whether it is adults or larvae, these insects play an important role in ecosystems : if we analyze the food web , they are usually classified as decomposing organisms , since they help a matter in principle inert (since it cannot be used by most organisms) it can be reintegrated into the matter cycle. In addition, both larvae and adults serve as food for other animals.

However, in rural or urban environments they can become pests and cause serious damage to different infrastructures. The best way to protect our wooden structures is to prevent the laying of eggs or the arrival of termites: keeping the wood clean, seamless and renewing the protective layers is a good way.

Once we find the problem, we can try to apply ecological solutions to a pest of insects that eat wood . The most common is to use biological control techniques , that is, to place nearby populations of successful natural enemies, such as wasps or parasitic nematodes. Each of the species will have a series of these natural enemies, of which we can take advantage of.

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