Termites are small eusocial insects with mostly pale, soft bodies. Them being eusocial means that termites live in groups and belong to the highest division of sociality organization. Eusociality is often characterized by complex behaviors like reproductive division of labor, group decision-making, collaborative care for broods, and overlapping generations.
These insects live in highly organized colonies with specific functions and characteristics of kings, queens, and castes. Other eusocial insects that exhibit such highly systematic behaviors include ants, bees, and wasps.
Termites play a crucial role in balancing our ecosystem; they break down cellulose in dead or decaying organisms like deadwood. While this is great for nature, termites can become a serious problem in more urban settings.
In the United States, roughly 45 species of termites exist, each of which exhibits different behaviors and biological characteristics depending on where it lives and where it chooses to build its nests. However, the species can be broadly grouped into three main types: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood termites.
We will be discussing drywood termites, covering everything there’s to know about this species. So, without further ado, let’s delve straight in.
What Are Drywood Termites?
Drywood termites are a termite species that belongs to the Kalotermitidae family and are further divided into three groups: Western drywood, Southeastern drywood, and Desert drywood.
Western drywood is usually found in the southwest US region like Arizona and California. And the Southeastern drywood can be located in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Finally, Desert drywood is abundant in Arizona and Southeastern California.
Where Do Drywood Termites Live?
Drywood termites get their name from where they live, nest, and feed dry wood. As the name suggests, dry wood is dead, undecayed wood with low moisture content. As a result, almost all wood, from building woodwork and structural timber to furniture and other wooden objects, is susceptible to drywood termite attacks.
What Do Drywood Termites Look Like?
Lengthwise, a drywood termite ranges from 1/4 to 3/8 inches, depending on its age. Additionally, a typical drywood termite has straight antennae, short legs, and a thick waist. Also, a termite’s appearance can change slightly depending on its role in its colony.
Alates, also known as swarmers, are the reproductive members of a termite colony. In season, alates grow wings, mate, and fly off to become kings or queens of their newly formed colonies. These wings are then shed off. However, drywood termite swarmers aren’t of a great number.
Like all soldiers, soldier termites’ duty is to defend and protect their colony from attacks. In addition, it’s the soldier termite’s job to rush and fix any disturbances, holes, or broken walls that may occur to the nest, which is why you may be able to spot a soldier outside the colony.
Appearance-wise, drywood termite soldiers have a soft body with a hard exterior, a larger head, and a full-fledged, large mandible.
The worker termite’s role is to build, maintain, and feed the colony. Workers scavenge for food, care for the king and queen, and build and maintain termite nests and mud tubes. In termite species that don’t have soldiers, older workers take on the roles of defense and protection.
Appearance-wise, a worker termite is white or pale brown, wingless, soft, has hardened mouthparts, and resembles the larval stage of insects.
Drywood termite colonies have worker termites, but they aren’t actual workers; the species relies on its nymphs to perform typical worker duties.
Drywood Termite Infestations
Drywood infestation is one of the most damaging things that can happen to a home or a property. It’s silent, damaging, inconvenient, and super hard, and costly to treat.
What Are The Signs Of A Drywood Termite Infestation?
Wood damage and shelter tubes are universal signs of a termite infestation. In addition to them, the two characteristic signs of drywood termites are frass and swarms.
Drywood termite excretion is very characteristic and takes the form of pellets. These fecal pellets, called frass, are hard, uniformly sized, rounded at the ends, and hexagonal with six distinctively concave sides.
To conserve their feces and prevent dehydration, drywood termites absorb as much water as possible from the waste they produce, which is why the discarded pellets are hard. After feeding, the termites discard the frass outside their nests where you can spot it.
If you spot mounds of these drywood termite pellets, contact pest control.
Swarming is the process in which the new reproductive termites, called swarms, fly out of their current colony to reproduce and start a new colony. Contact infestation control immediately if you notice winged insects flying out of your wood, walls, roofs, or floors.
Swarmers usually take flight around summertime. It’s worth noting that drywood termites produce fewer swarmers than other termite species, which means that they may go unnoticed. However, even if you don’t see them flying out, you’ll likely find their discarded wings near your windows and doors.
Shelter tubes, or mud tubes, are another visible sign of drywood termite infestation. These structures are tunnels that the termites build to move between their nests without drying out. The termites use wood and dirt particles that they piece together using their saliva and other fluids as binding agents to make these structures.
You can find these quarter-inch wide brown structures laying flat on or hanging vertically from floor joists, foundation walls, attics, and crawl space piers.
A cool trick to detect termite activity is to try breaking off a piece of the shelter tube when you find one. If you find that the structure has been repaired or a new one has been built, it means that termites exist and are still active.
Because drywood termites burrow in wood, you’re likely to find wood powder next to the frass pellets. Additionally, if drywood termites tunnel too close to the wood surface, they cause the wood to blister.
Kick-out holes in wood are also characteristic. A kick-out hole is an opening that the termites use to make their way into the wood and discard their frass pellets.
Moreover, depressions and hollowness in roof structures can indicate weak areas caused by termite damage.
How Damaging Are Drywood Termites?
The damage resulting from a drywood termite infestation varies depending on several factors, but it’s often devastating.
The first determinant is the spread of the infestation. Is it localized? How much of your property is infested? How many nests are there? How deep are the drywood termites?
The second is duration. How long have the pests been chewing on your wood?
Drywood termites are dangerous because you can’t see them. They chew on your walls, wood, furniture, and cellulose-containing materials, irreversibly weakening them without you noticing. By the time you start paying attention, it’s often too late, and the termites have already formed elaborate systems within your property.
Depending on the extent of infestation damage, drywood termite treatment is often costly and inconvenient.
Drywood Termite Control
Once drywood termites are discovered, there are a few treatment and infestation control approaches. The most common three are wood replacement, localized/spot treatment, and structural fumigation. The most crucial factor in pest control is making sure no termites survive. Even the most insignificant number of surviving termites have the power to maintain the colony.
If all infested timbers and woods can be located and easily replaced, your best option would be to replace the wood completely.
Spot Wood Treatment
Localized spot treatment should suffice if the drywood termite infestation is somehow limited. To treat localized infestations, you’ll need to drill holes, locally inject the treatment into the holes, then close the holes back up.
Injected treatments include aerosols and dust formulations. Aerosol chemicals used in drywood termite pest control include Premise Foam, Termidor Foam, Alpine Foam, and Termidor Dry. Recommended dust formulations include Timbor and TriDie.
To apply these, drill small holes into the drywood termite galleries and close the holes back up using wooden dowels. drywood termite kick-out holes can also be used for injections.
In cases of structural drywood infestations, the best treatment approach is tent fumigation.
The first step in structural fumigation is evacuation; the structure is completely evacuated and remains so during the whole process. Next, the entire place is covered in a leak-proof tarp, pumped in toxic pesticides. The toxic gas infiltrates the infested wood and timber, killing all drywood termites.
This process is very intricate and can only be carried out by infestation control professionals. The whole procedure can take a few days.
Structural fumigation is a treatment measure, not a preventive one. This means that tent fumigation kills but doesn’t prevent termite reinfestation.
Additional Treatment Methods
Other less common termite pest control methods include electricity, microwaves, and extreme temperatures.
Drywood Termite Prevention
At this point, you may be wondering if there are preventive treatments for drywood termite infestations. Luckily, there are a few.
Protecting The Wood
If you live somewhere prone to termite infestations, try to avoid wood altogether, especially in building materials. If you do use wood, paint or seal any exposed wood to prevent termite entrance.
There are several ways to treat wood against termites. Wood can be pressure-treated with Sodium Borate (SBX) or Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ). Silica aerogel dust and boron compounds will prevent termites from penetrating the wood in the right concentrations.
A termite usually finds its way into your space through different entry points. The most common ones include foundation and attic vents, fascia boards, eave gaps, and spaces surrounding windows and doors. Be sure to safeguard every one of these.
For the vents, use a 20-mesh screen wire to prevent swarmer entrances. Then, you can use caulk to fill in the open spaces regarding all the other gaps.
While annual inspections of your space aren’t a preventive measure per se, they can massively minimize the losses.
Usually, by the time you notice that something is wrong, it might be too late. Therefore, annual inspections can help you detect termite infestations in earlier stages before the real damage is done.
Annual inspection serves two purposes here. The first and most obvious is damage detection and control. The less obvious but equally important purpose would be detecting potential causes and locations of termite infestations.
Drywood Vs. Subterranean Termites
While both drywood and subterranean termites feed on cellulose and cause substantial damage to buildings and other structures, the two species have some differences.
Subterranean termites burrow underground and require direct contact with soil. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites don’t need soil contact.
While drywood termites can spread thoroughly and quickly within rooms and floors once they’ve gained access to a home or property, their damage is considered less destructive than that of subterranean termites. This is primarily due to the rate at which the damage is done.
Also, drywood termite colonies are significantly smaller than their subterranean counterparts, taking more time to cause significant damage. For example, while a standard drywood termite colony comprises nearly 10,000 termites, a subterranean colony is made up of over 500,000 insects.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Possible To Get Rid Of Drywood Termites Naturally?
There are a few suggested home remedies for natural drywood termite control. These remedies include boric acid, cayenne pepper, cardboard bait system, nematodes, Diatomaceous Earth sand, white vinegar, neem oil, orange oil, and salt.
While these may work, it’d be better to let the professionals take care of it, especially in more extensive infestations.
Do Drywood Termites Leave On Their Own?
Drywood termites won’t go away on their own. Once a space is infested, intervention is required. Waiting for the pests to go away on their own will only cause more damage; the more you wait, the more damage you cause to the infested wood. Drywood termites will also spread to different areas, so you need to act quickly.
Termite infestations cause massive annual damage to US property and homes. Drywood termites are one of the common termite species in the US responsible for such losses. They’re known to inhabit dry wood and cellulose-containing material, eating their way through.
Drywood termite infestations are silent, dangerous, and are often only detected after it’s too late. Treatment is elaborate and expensive. However, there are some preventive measures to protect your property against infestations. If it’s too late for prevention, the best thing you can do is act fast. So always contact professional pest control.