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Common Pests Known to Damage Multi-Family Properties

As a property manager, one of the most dreaded property management issues is common pests. Although you know these pests will lead to a long list of tenant complaints, you might not realize they can cause damage to exterior materials on your property. Here we look at some common pests that damage building exteriors, what attracts them, and how to avoid infestation with pest-resistant materials and proper siding and roofing installation methods.  

1. Subterranean Termites

Termites feed on exterior materials such as wood, constructing shelters, or mud “tubes” aboveground. These runways are made of soil and wood particles often visible on property foundations and wood beams.  Although they build their nests in soil, they also can create colonies in structures such as your property when there is a moisture source.

As a result, it’s essential to assess the building for issues such as roof leaks or plumbing issues that might attract subterranean termites. In addition, as the termites consume the wood in your building, they leave behind “galleries,” honeycombing wood structures as they feed. In some cases, the damage is hidden by a thin surface and is only revealed with probing.  

2. Drywood Termites

This type of termite can travel in infested wood, including furniture. As a result, a new tenant might bring along a colony if moving from another state. Although rare in Ohio, once the termites arrive, they infest structures and swarm in the building each year. As their name implies, they nest in dry wood and use it as food, creating irregular markings with their galleries.

As a result, they can be harder to detect, with the presence of “fecal pellets” being the most common evidence of a drywood termite infestation. The pellets are hard, six-sided bits the termites eject from the colony. If you spot an odd pile of these bits, this could indicate a termite infestation.

3. Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants excavate wood using their mandibles, creating galleries leading to their nests. Their strong jaws make it easy to remove wood, but they don’t eat wood like termites. They can nest in the interior or exterior of your property and are also found in structures with water damage. This might include your gutters, skylight, and window frames around the chimney or in doorframes. Wood shingles and siding are also vulnerable when damaged. Other areas might include porch posts and crawlspaces. One of the major attractions for carpenter ants is landscape plants crawling with aphids. These ants eat the “honeydew” excreted by aphids and scale insects as they feed.

An interesting fact about carpenter ants is that they can produce a rustling sound as the colony removes wood with their mandibles. Along with the sound, you can also look for irregular galleries that are grainy, like sandpaper, as well as wood shavings around your property. The shavings will appear outside the building, as the ants carry them away as they work.

4. Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees feed on pollen and nectar-like other bees but create their nests in wood. They present a problem because they damage wood and can become bothersome for tenants as the constant humming is very noticeable. Like carpenter ants, the queen bee uses mandibles to clean out the area to build the nest. They create an entrance hole a little smaller than ½ inch, and the galleries created by the queen are not visible.

Signs you have carpenter bees include a humming sound, a distinct round entrance hole in wood, sawdust near the entrance, and bee excrement staining. However, you might not always be able to find the hole as they are not always on an exposed section of wood. A common place bees attack is the inner lip of fascia boards, where the bees are more likely to find access via nail holes. They are attracted to:

  • Exposed saw cuts
  • Weathered softer wood
  • Unpainted wood
  • Roof eaves and gables
  • Fascia boards
  • Porch ceilings
  • Decks
  • Railings
  • Siding
  • Shingles
  • Shutters

As long as the wood on your property is well maintained and painted, they will avoid your building. Although they seldom cause severe structural damage, they can cause serious wood damage if they return to use the same nest. In this case, galleries can spread as much as 10 feet over the years. If new tunnels are constructed near weakened older tunnels, this can also increase the level of damage.

5. Powderpost Beetles

Powderpost beetles tend to cause the most damage in the larvae stage. The larvae feed on wood so aggressively they leave behind a thin outer shell of wood with a powdery inside. Hence, their name. Heavy infestation and repeat attacks can cause severe damage to your property. Although the adult powderpost beetles only live a few weeks, they can often be found in groups around windows or lights. They can attack just about anything made of wood, from rafters and joists to paneling and window/doorframes, and interior items from door handles to baskets and fishing holes to furniture.

If it’s wood, they’ll eat it, so spotting them early is a must. Also, they prefer softwoods used for building construction, which means you might find structural infestations often originating in crawl spaces. Signs of beetle infestation include small exit holes in wood surfaces and powdery wood below the holes known as “frass.” Powderpost beetles usually infest a home after being brought onto your property via untreated wood such as furniture, firewood, or building materials

What Attracts Common Pests?

Typically, pests are attracted to the following:

  • Landscaping, especially with wood and mulch against the property
  • Insulation installed in direct contact with soil
  • Cracks in concrete and masonry
  • Siding in contact with soil

How to Avoid Common Pests

Your best protection against pests is to repair plumbing and leaks that create moisture. You should also ensure you use pest and moisture-resistant exterior materials such as James Hardie fiber cement siding. The weatherproof material can withstand harsh conditions and comes in dozens of colors and styles to attract tenants instead of pests. However, proper installation is necessary to ensure your exterior is secure enough to prevent pests from gaining entry.

American Way Exteriors is Dayton, Ohio's only James Hardie Elite Preferred Contractor. To protect your multi-family property from common pests, learn more about our commercial siding or our commercial roofing services.

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