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What are Boring Insects?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Boring insects are insects which like to bore holes into wood, bark, woody steams, leaves, and other parts of trees, shrubs, and plants. They can be a serious problem in the garden and around the home, and they are found in every corner of the world, with hundreds of common boring insect species infecting everything from grape roots to books. Once these members of the insect world settle in, they can be very difficult to dislodge, making prevention of infestations a priority for people who want to avoid damage caused by these insects.

Some boring insects actively feed on the materials they eat into, while others bore holes to live, or to lay eggs. Adult insects and larvae may both engage in boring activities, and as boring insects settle in and begin breeding, they can create a population which will keep growing with every breeding cycle, causing the damage to spread very rapidly. In some cases, the damage is hard to spot or invisible because it occurs below the surface, while other insects leave obvious traces of their presence.

Some species are attracted to trees and plants which are already sick or diseased. These insects take advantage of the weakened state of the plant, and may hasten the damage along, making it difficult for the plant to recover. Others colonize plants and trees which are perfectly healthy. Signs of a boring insect infestation include yellowing and drooping of leaves, pitting and scarring on trunks and branches, thick secretions from the plant caused by burrowing deep into the plant, or obvious signs of insect activity on the plant.

In addition to colonizing living trees and plants, boring insects will also attack wood and wood products such as books, fences, decks, and houses. This type of damage can sometimes be very difficult to spot from the surface. Over time, the pests cause a softening and collapse, and in the meantime, they spread to other potential sources of food or nesting material in the area.

Some examples of boring insects include termites, powder post beetles, longhorn beetles, carpenter ants, and Asian longhorn beetles. Controlling these pests involves keeping homes and gardens as clean as possible, discarding or sequestering dead organic material such as pruned tree branches, and monitoring vulnerable wood, trees, and plants for early signs of infestation. If insects do settle in, the infected material should be removed and carefully discarded to discourage a spread to other areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly are boring insects?

Boring insects are a group of insects that drill into wood, plants, or other materials to feed, live, or lay eggs. They can cause significant damage to trees, crops, and wooden structures. Examples include beetles like the emerald ash borer and carpenter bees that excavate tunnels for nesting.

How do boring insects affect trees and plants?

Boring insects can severely impact trees and plants by disrupting their vascular systems, which transport water and nutrients. This can lead to wilting, loss of vigor, and eventually death. Infestations can also make trees more susceptible to disease and environmental stress, compounding the damage.

Can boring insects damage homes or other wooden structures?

Yes, certain boring insects, such as termites and powderpost beetles, are notorious for damaging wooden structures. They can compromise the structural integrity of homes by tunneling through wood, often causing thousands of dollars in repairs and weakening the structure to the point of being unsafe.

What signs indicate an infestation of boring insects?

Signs of an infestation include visible exit holes in wood, sawdust-like frass (insect waste), weakened or dying plants, and in some cases, audible chewing or rustling within wooden structures. Early detection is crucial to prevent extensive damage and manage the infestation effectively.

How can I prevent boring insects from infesting my property?

Preventive measures include using insect-resistant plant varieties, keeping trees healthy to resist infestation, and treating wood with preservatives. Regular inspections of wooden structures and prompt removal of infested trees or wood can also help prevent the spread of these pests.

Are there environmentally friendly ways to control boring insects?

Environmentally friendly control methods include introducing natural predators, such as parasitic wasps, and using pheromone traps to monitor and reduce insect populations. Biological insecticides, like those containing Bacillus thuringiensis, can target specific pests without harming beneficial insects or the surrounding ecosystem.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By croydon — On Oct 29, 2011

One of my favorite kinds of boring insect is the scale insect that lives in the beech forests of the South Island of New Zealand. We learned about it when we were on vacation there.

They bore into the tree so they can drink the sap, and then they secrete a sugary substance outside the tree.

The whole forest ecology is based around that sugary substance, as even the birds will eat it.

I just think that's kind of cool.

It's a better kind of wood insect than a termite anyway!

By Mor — On Oct 28, 2011

Termites are an absolute pain if they get into a building. They are really difficult to get rid of.

If you are going to build a new building and you know that they can be a problem, you should try to make sure you use prevention, rather than trying to get rid of them later.

There are all kinds of techniques to make sure you don't get termites now. You can get materials that have been poisoned against them, for example.

Or, if you don't like that idea, you can just make the cladding from materials they can't chew into, although you'll have to be sure they can't get into the wood underneath.

Honestly, the amount of money they will cost you is so much more than spending a little extra in the beginning to prevent them from ever moving in.

By irontoenail — On Oct 28, 2011

We've got some wood boring insects in my rented house. I've pointed them out to the landlord, but she hasn't done anything about them yet.

I know they are live and still doing damage, because we can see bits of sawdust hanging underneath the holes.

I'm not sure what kind of measures need to be taken in order to control them, but I hope it doesn't mean we'll have to leave the house or anything like that. I know they need to do something about it though. I don't really fancy having it collapse on us!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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