Drywood termites destroy wood structures faster than subterranean termites; this is due to the fact that they do not require much moisture to survive, and they prefer to spend nearly their entire life cycle inside sound, dry wood, which serves as their food source. It’s only during swarming flights, which are brief, that young adult drywood termites emerge from the safety of their colonies to begin life anew in a different location. As these termites can be difficult to detect, they often cause serious damage. Prevention is vital, particularly if you live in an area where drywood termites are known to swarm.
Identifying and Preventing Drywood Termites
Drywood termites are much less prevalent than subterranean termites. These insects are primarily found throughout the Southwest United States as well as through the coastal Southern states. Workers are white to cream colored, whit a pair of antennae and strong jaws. Soldiers, which defend the colony against ants and other invaders, have brown heads with stout pincers; the back of a soldier termite’s body is the same semi-translucent white color as a worker termite’s body is. Reproductive drywood termites (swarmers) have dark-colored bodies with two pairs of long wings that are about twice the length of the body.
To prevent a drywood termite infestation, keep the area around your home’s perimeter clear of debris, particularly wood that could entice a new swarm to take up residence. Excessive plant cover, wood mulch, and plant matter should be removed. Firewood should not be stored near the home’s perimeter.
In addition, place screens over outside vents to prevent termites from entering, and keep your gutters and downspouts clear of debris such as leaves and small sticks, which termites often view as food sources. Finally, ensure that any stumps near your home have been completely removed. Even a small tree stump contains dry wood, which these termites rely on and will swarm to.
Signs of Drywood Termites
The most common signs of drywood termites are sawdust-like pellets, which are basically excrement, cleared tunnels (also known as galleries) inside wood, shed wings from young adult swarmers, or visual identification of the swarming termites themselves. Cracking or bubbling paint is another sign that you could have a drywood termite infestation, and so is wood that has a hollow sound when tapped.
Shingles and roof structures are also common points of entry for termites; floor joists are another area which the insects attack.
What to Do If You Have a Drywood Termite Infestation
There are quite a few methods for eliminating drywood termites. First, and perhaps easiest in cases of minimal infestation, affected wood can be removed and replaced. Chemically treated or kiln-dried wood resists infestation best.
Infested wood can also be drilled, after which pesticide can be injected. This method is not foolproof however; even though one colony might be killed, any missed termites can continue to spread throughout the structure and smaller colonies can still be present and may continue to grow.
If you have a serious drywood termite infestation, it may be in your best interest to contact a professional extermination company as these termites are notoriously difficult to eradicate completely. Whole structure fumigation, microwave treatment, electrocution, and freezing the termites with liquid nitrogen are some of the extermination methods professionals have access to. However, not all these treatments are equally effective. According to entomologists at Texas A & M University, studies have shown that only fumigation is likely to kill all termites inside a structure. In other methods, survivors live on to tend eggs, sustaining the colony and allowing it to expand once more.
If you choose to have an exterminator handle a drywood termite infestation, be sure the company removes all signs of termites after the extermination has been completed, so you can watch for pellet production, swarming, and other signs of re-infestation. Many companies offer ongoing prevention and many offer warranties; check our guide to working with a professional termite exterminator for in-depth information that will help you make a sound decision and get rid of drywood termites once and for all.