Five Ways to Protect Pallets

It’s no secret that pallets are the backbone of the logistics industry, and wood is the standard material. With an estimated two billion pallets in circulation, most wood pallets are designed to be reused and recycled rather than used only once. Whether you purchase pallets and manage them in-house or outsource them to a third-party pallet management provider, you still have to think about pallet storage to prevent pests.

Here are the winter pests most likely to be found in wood pallets, along with tips for how you can keep your pallets and facility safe from wood destroying pests.

Termites. Termites are the ultimate wood-destroying pest. Subterranean termites prefer damp wood that’s already been damaged. Drywood termites don’t require soil and can eat any wood. Signs of termites include darkened wood, hollow wood and frass, as well as mud tubes, which are made of soil and wood mixed with termite saliva. Telltale drywood termite signs include droppings that result in a dark powdery substance. If there is ever a silent moment in your facility, you might be able to hear a faint rustling sound of worker termites.

Carpenter Ants. These ants don’t feed on wood, but they do make their homes in damp or decaying wood. The damper the wood, the happier carpenter ants are within it. Look for wood shavings, sometimes containing ant body parts, as they clear out the wood to make their nests.

Wood-Destroying Beetles. These pests may be the hardest to spot and prevent. Adults lay larvae inside the wood, and the larvae chew it up within it, causing the structural damage. Of the many species of wood-destroying beetles, you’re most likely to have powderpost beetles, which lay their eggs just below the surface of unfinished wood. Powderpost beetles bore very small holes, and the dust is very fine.

Black Widows. These spiders hide and build their haphazard webs around woodpiles and in dimly lit manmade structures. The wood stored in your facility is a perfect hiding spot to find food. If you have existing pest problems, you are more likely to see black widows as they hunt other insects. Their bites are venomous and should be handled by a medical professional immediately.

How to help prevent pests from invading your pallets

·       Store cores off the ground on a rack or platform.

·       Store cores out of the elements. Moist wood is inherently more attractive to wood destroying pests.

·       If creating a discard or recycling pile, keep cores at least 20 to 30 feet away from your building. If pests are in or seek out the wood, you are at least protecting the rest of your facility.

·       Do not use DIY pest solutions on pallets. Store-bought sprays generally cause the pests to burrow deeper into the wood. Wood is often pretreated so you may unknowingly make the pretreatment and DIY less effective or, in the worst case, ignite a chemical reaction.

·       If you have a continued pest problem caused by wood pallets, you may consider turning to an engineered wood pallet, where the wood fiber is dried before being mixed with resin and heated. This process sanitizes and reduces moisture to almost zero, which means the pallet will not attract wood-destroying organisms.

Following these steps will help to minimize pest issues but partnering with your pest control provider is the best way to ensure all efforts are being made to reduce an infestation of wood-destroying organisms.

By Nic Ellis, board-certified entomologist, Western Pest Services

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