Jamele from Louisville asks: What is this flying bug? It's about 1 inch long, black with yellow stripes, long antennas, looks like it has a pincher mouth, and it flies. I have killed at least 20 just today. I can't find a picture on the web and I am worried because I have a toddler and I don't know if this bug is harmless or what.
Dear Jamele: What you are describing certainly sounds like some type of wood infesting beetle like the Locust Borer. It's one of the usual suspects when it comes to firewood. This particular insect loves hardwoods and specifically the black locust tree.
Black locust trees are often used to plant land reclamation projects or land damaged by farming or strip mining. These trees grow easily in poor soil. So, I'm guessing that you went out on a wood-hunting expedition and rounded up some wood from dead trees you may have discovered. Thinking that you hit the hardwood mother load, you filled up your pickup or SUV and brought your prize home. When, at last, you brought the wood inside, the warmth of your home confused Mother Nature and out popped a fine new crop of Locust borers. Big and scary-looking, aren't they? I can see everyone sitting around the fire enjoying a movie when suddenly someone sees a bug the size of the Queen Mary crawling across the TV screen. That will get your heart a-pumping.
Okay! So, now everyone is running around the room, standing on sofas and grabbing their children. œRun for the hills, someone shouts. But, hold on for just a second. Keep your heads. These Locust borers are just as surprised to wake up and find themselves in a carpeted environment, as you are to find them. There is a fairly simple solution. Pick up the remaining firewood and take it back outside. It's that easy. You can make some other decisions such as whether you want to throw away all the remaining wood or just bring in wood that you will use for the fire that day. Once the wood hits the flames it is going to quickly resolve any pest control issues. No insect will survive the heat of a blazing fire unless it happens to be a Marvel Comic Book character. Nor will it be able to set up home. They don't nest or reproduce inside a home.
There are a few ways to assure you do not bring infested wood into your home. Your outside firewood storage needs to be kept off the ground on a firewood rack of some sort. Firewood sitting directly on the ground is likely to be in direct contact with wet soil and that means insects are probably nearby. Pick up some wood from the bottom of the pile and you are sure to find ants, pillbugs, centipedes and maybe a termite or two. When a tree falls in the forest, what do you think turns the wood back into soil. Wood fairies? Beavers? Nope, it is mostly termites, fungi and lots of other type of wood boring insects. Also, try to stack your firewood so that air is allowed to circulate through the stack. This promotes drying of the wood and wood boring insects do not do well in very dry wood. If you like covering your firewood, try to stack the wood where the sun will shine directly on the pile. The heat generated under the covering will also do much to kill off any hiding insects.
Use the oldest wood first because if it has been sitting around for a long time it has the best chance of becoming infested. Also, create a new pile of firewood when you start stacking for the winter. Don't take your new firewood and put it on top of the remaining wood from the previous season. You are really asking for an insect-surprise when you do that.
Bang the firewood together or against a brick wall to jar lose any hiding insect. And, for heavens sake, do not spray firewood with pesticides. For one, pesticides are often flammable and two, the pesticide is probably volatile as it heats up and can release toxic gases into the air. And three, I can't think of any pesticides that are labeled for treating firewood. At least, none that you can get your hands on.
Everybody sit back down and relax. We thought we had the insect that ate Philadelphia, but it only turnout out to be a pretty little bug that thought it was springtime.