Searching for the source of puzzling pest woes my customers had given up on solving means following clues. One of the most common themes in pest detection involves dirt, dust or sawdust.
Particulates, ending up where they are least expected or desired, can be a sign of trouble. That means they may be in the center of a floor, on your car roof or in a drawer of grandma’s heirloom dresser.
Many customers, when facing the unknown, rely on friends, relatives or the internet. Their self-diagnosis is the usual prognostication of gloom: Mutant termites devouring the house in a week. Any good pest professional, worth their weight in bugs, knows full well that it’s going to take at least two weeks.
Most people are unaware of the regular movement a house makes, such as shifting floors and windows. When two solid elements rub against each other, such as wood, the friction will cause the surfaces to degrade. Deposits will accumulate in nearby voids. This degradation is largely unseen.
Similar unseen dust is always created in the building or remodeling process. Diligent contractors very carefully and fastidiously will clean their work environment upon completion of their work, exemplifying proud craftsmanship.
Sawdust and other construction remnants undoubtedly remain inside walls, under baseboards, in ceiling voids and most other places, waiting to mysteriously show themselves. It is upon their arrival that my phone rings.
It is common knowledge that some insects damage wood to varying degrees or another. These include termites, carpenter ants, carpenter bees and the families of powder post beetles. Some of these pests will also commonly leave wood fragments, shavings and sawdust in various varieties.
Surprisingly to most, subterranean termites, the prime species in our area, do NOT leave any sawdust or wood fragments. While certain species of termites (dry woods) do discharge fecal pellets from their damaged galleries, most would be hard-pressed to confuse these with wood shards.
Unknown sawdust usually equates to blame being cast upon termites, a common default explanation. While they are guilty of leaving lots of misery and destruction in their wake, spewing sawdust is not one of their calling cards.
There are a few logical reasons why mystery dust appears in a home. They include vibrations of various types, as well as air currents.
Almost everyone has experienced a home shaking, even when an earthquake has not occurred. Large vehicles will get the walls shaking; thunder and the neighbor’s car stereo can also bring on a rattle.
Vibrations, from differing sources, will easily get these hidden dirt deposits to be rattled loose out of their hiding places. Most people tend to forget about normal walking through the house, let alone the kids occasional jumping spells. All of these are equal opportunity offenders.
Most people can attest to air movement in their homes, especially on a blustery winter day. As tight and well-built as we tend to believe our structures are, air can easily find its way in, especially around doors and windows. Areas, experience has shown us, holds countless pockets of mystery fodder.