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Winter and fireplaces go hand in hand. Nothing beats the coziness of a warm fire, a snuggly afghan and a cup of cocoa. And with families already nestled together indoors, this could be a common occurrence this season.

But as you gather and stack your firewood to use for those family or romantic evenings, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure termites (or other pests) don’t enjoy it before you do! You see, outdoor firewood offers insects a trifecta of food, water and shelter. If you have termites in firewood, those pests are carried right into your home when you bring the wood inside.

The good news is there isn’t really much danger of the wood you carry in causing a termite infestation. That’s because the queen of the termite colony will always be outside and underground, so her workers can’t begin a new infestation without her. However, when woodpiles are stacked against the house or in close proximity to the foundation, it provides a way for termites to extend their feeding into your home.

Avoid this possibility by proper storage of your outdoor firewood:

  1. Store firewood at least 3 to 5 feet away from your home or any other buildings on your property. Ensure that your firewood stays dry; that will eliminate any termites already nesting there.
  2. Raise the stored wood 8 to 12 inches off the ground. This will keep the wood from getting too wet and reduce the chances for infestation by termites and ants. Try using a rack specially designed for holding firewood, or by using do-it-yourself methods that include stacking bricks or concrete pads to form a platform on which to store the wood.
  3. Do not apply pesticides to the wood thinking that this will kill existing termites or protect against new infestation. Chemicals can’t penetrate deeply enough in wood to kill the termites, and burning that wood later can release toxic fumes that are dangerous to inhale. If you find that your wood stack is already infested with termites, you should just dispose of it at a local dump site.

Distance and off-ground wood storage are a good defense, since these critters don’t travel far without food. It’s a good idea to use a piece of tin or other sheet metal as a base for your firewood stack. This makes sure that the bottom pieces of wood touch only the metal and not the ground itself. Having a metal base with small “walls” to create a shallow box can also be very useful, as it will not only give support to your firewood supply but will also prevent termites or other pests from just crawling over the edge of the sheet.

Bringing and stacking logs indoors looks rustic and saves time later, but doing so can also put your home at risk by providing a way in for other unwanted pests. Beetles are found on firewood more often than any other species of insect. Carpenter ants, wood cockroaches and even overwintering wasps or hornet queens also like staying in loose bark and hollow trees that might eventually be used for firewood.

Don’t warm up to the idea of termites in or around your home. A professional pest control company can provide a free termite inspection to determine if you have a problem.