Protecting Cabinets from Wood-Eating Bugs

More than just a storage space, cabinets can also function as an accent to add color and style to any room. And because they are functional and contribute to your home’s aesthetics, you make sure that it is properly maintained. You want to keep them looking immaculate and polished, just like when they were newly installed.

Aside from regular cleaning and sometimes even polishing, you should also check for the presence of any wood-eating bugs. It is an essential part of cabinet maintenance since insects that eat wood can destroy your cabinets. Find out what these harmful insects are, how to recognize and prevent infestation, and how to treat damaged cabinets.

Recognizing the Signs of Infestation

Small but terrible, wood-eating insects can destroy your cabinet and even reduce it to dust! They chew up the wood from inside out and weaken the structure of wooden cabinets. Over time, the structural strength of the cabinet will fail, and the cabinet may break down.


Checking for signs of infestation will allow you to catch the onset of invasion and stop it from spreading and causing considerable damage. The following signs indicate the presence of insects that eat wood:

  • Exit holes in woods – These are tiny holes with a diameter of 1-2mm for the smaller beetles and 3-7mm for the larger beetles.
  • Frass or bore dust – This is a fine, powdery substance composed mainly of feces and some wood fiber usually found below or on the infested wood.
  • Tunnels in infested wood – These tunnels are marks left by beetle larva as they bore through the wood. The tunnels can measure up to 7.5 mm in diameter.
  • The wood crumbles – It first appears around the edge and corners of the affected wood. The hollowing causes the crumbling of the wood due to the tunnels made by wood borers.
  • Weak and damaged wood – The cabinet floor, panels, and door may begin to weaken and give way, especially when pressure is applied.
  • Mud tubes on or around the cabinet – These are tunnels the size of a regular pencil made from soil and wood particles created by termites.
  • Termite galleries – these are the hollow spaces that typically run parallel to the wood grains.
  • The sound of scraping wood – Sometimes, when they are active, you can hear the beetle larva inside their tunnels as they scrape the wood.
  • The presence of insects and insect eggs – The most apparent indication would be the presence of insects, whether dead or alive and insect eggs. Laid in clusters, the eggs are usually white or greyish depending on the type of insect. They are small, from 0.35mm-2mm long, and are typically found in crevices, joints, cracks, and exposed ends of the wood.

Types of Wood-Eating Bugs

Different kinds of wood eating bugs target different types of wood. Some insects like hardwoods, while others prefer pine; some insects don’t really eat the wood, while others actually do. But they all do damage just the same. Here are some common insects that eat wood:

wood-eating bugs

  1. Termites
    What are they – These are winged insects that create tunnels and eat wood. Two common types of termites that infest the wood are the drywood termite and the subterranean termite. The drywood termites infest from above the ground, usually dry area. Subterranean termites thrive on areas where moisture or humidity is present. They are common in places with warm or tropical climates. Signs of their presence – Mud tubes, termite galleries, and tunnels.
  2. Wood-Boring Beetles
    What are they – Ranging from tiny (1/8 inch) to large (2 inches) in size, wood-boring beetles can be flat or round-headed with an antenna. Common types of wood-boring beetles include bark beetles, wood wasps, or long-horned beetles. Signs of their presence – Exit holes, bore dust, and tunnels.
  3. Carpenter Ants
    What are they – Large ants that can be red, black, or yellow depending on the species. They may or may not have wings. They burrow and nest in softwood materials, like insulation board and rotting woods. Signs of their presence – Wood shavings around the area where they nest.
  4. Horntails
    What are they – Large insect that resembles a wasp and has a long but rather harmless stinger. They usually target softwoods such as pine, spruce, or cedar. Signs of their presence – Large exit holes, around half an inch in size.
  5. Carpenter moths
    What are they – These are highly-destructive pale and hairless wood-boring larva that lives up to three years. An adult carpenter moth has a thick body and mottled gray or brown wings, spanning about 2 inches. Signs of their presence – Exit holes and tunnels.

Infestation Treatment and Prevention

In worst cases, infestation treatment is best left to the professional pest control companies. But if caught early on, the infestation can be stopped and kept under control using the following methods:

  • Use a commercial insecticide to kill bugs and larva. Spray or apply the product twice for the best results. Be sure to allow the first application to dry completely before putting the second application.
  • You may use boric acid (borax) or diatomaceous earth to kill ants, termites, and beetles. You can apply the said powders directly to the cracks and crevices with the use of a powder duster.
  • You can also sprinkle or inject poisoned bait. It works by attracting foraging insects, which will spread the poison back into their colony.

Of course, prevention is always better than cure. Keeping the area inside and around the cabinet clean and dry will help keep insects and bugs away. Spraying a liquid termite barrier can also help significantly by stopping the infestation before it could start.

Damaged wood cabinets can be replaced though it can be costly. For minimal damages, a cabinet repair will be sufficient. Being proactive in preventing wood-eating insects from doing damage to your cabinets will help avoid expensive replacements and pest control service.

Owen is a customer experience manager at Majestic Cabinets. Having several years of experience in the home improvement field, Owen is keen on sharing his knowledge and secrets with others. Doesn't matter if you’re a homeowner with little to no knowledge in the field or an experienced contractor, you can always learn something new and interesting from his stories. Owen hopes that his articles will give you a bit of insight on home improvement.