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How To Differentiate Dampwood From Drywood Termites

March 31, 2022
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Termite infestation is a widespread problem and it can affect almost any homeowner. There are many different types of termites and it’s important to know which one you have in order to determine the appropriate method to treat them. Two of the common termite pests that usually pose a great deal of frustration are dampwood and drywood termites. 

So how do you distinguish dampwood termites from drywood termites? Dampwood termites species prefer to live in decayed wood with a high amount of moisture content. Meanwhile, drywood termites don’t need moisture requirements and they can live in dry, sound wood. They’re a more destructive species than dampwood termites and cause severe structural damage and infest furniture and other wooden materials. 

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Identifying Dampwood from Drywood Termites: Differences You Need To Know   

When it comes to termite species, everyone is probably already familiar with the Formosan termites and subterranean termites. They’re some of the easily recognizable pests with their cream-colored bodies, elongated heads, and large mandibles which they use to chew through wood. They can be found in almost any part of the country, unlike drywood and dampwood termites which usually infest homes in the southern part of the US and along the Pacific Coast.

Another thing to note about subterranean termites is that they feed mostly on wooden elements, making them the most destructive species of termites. However, dampwood and drywood termites can also pose a significant threat to your property and it’s important to know how to look for them to minimize the damage they can cause. 

Here are the main characteristics that you need to know about drywood and dampwood termites: 

What Do These Termite Types Look Like? 

The color of the bodies of dampwood termites can vary from creamy white to dark brown. Their sizes can also differ depending on their caste, with soldier termites growing up to 1/2-3/4 inch and swarmers up to 1 inch with their wings. Their reproductives, or the king and queen termite, can grow between ½ to 5/8 inch in length. Their large head also features a mandible on the front. 

On the other hand, drywood termite species are smaller than the family of dampwood termites. Typically, their soldiers can grow about 3/8 inches and the reproductive termites measure about 1/2 inch in length. Their bodies are usually dark brown but some species can have a light brown or yellowish shade. Their winged termites usually have a pair of wings that are transparent or gray in color. They also feature a set of mandibles with teeth on their head. 

How Do Their Nesting Habits and Behaviors Differ? 

As implied by their name, damp wood termites are attracted to environments and food sources with a high degree of moisture. Outdoors, they can build their colonies within decaying tree stumps, rotten wood, fence posts, and utility poles. Meanwhile, indoor dampwood termites can be found hiding in infested wood furniture, crawl spaces, and isolated areas with excess moisture. Unlike subterranean termites, they don’t need to rely on contact with soil to survive. 

Drywood termites are a unique type of pests because they don’t require access to water and soil contact. They tend to live above ground and actively search for sound wood where they can establish their nests. For this reason, dry wood termites are the common culprits for damage in wooden beams, wood siding, flooring, furniture, and structural timbers of your home. 

They also like to feed on any cellulose-containing material such as paper and cardboard. They can also be found nesting on firewood, tree stumps, and dead wood. 

When Do They Usually Swarm?

Swarming refers to the activity when the winged termites leave their colonies and fly in search of a new living environment. Termite swarms typically occur when their existing colony has matured or reached maximum size and capacity. During swarming seasons, thousands of alates or winged adults emerge from the termite nests with the purpose of mating, reproducing, and building a new colony. 

Dampwood termites are usually active throughout the year but their swarms can take flight during the summer months. It normally occurs during evenings when the humidity in the environment is high. Meanwhile, drywood termite swarmers typically come out during late summer or early fall. You can mostly find the traces of drywood termite activity on window sills where they usually discard their pairs of wings after mating. 

How Much Damage Can They Do To Properties? 

Drywood termites are an aggressive termite species and once they’ve fed on wooden structures, they can cause costly and irreparable structural damage. They tend to create termite galleries or chambers within the wood they’ve infested so you may notice a hollow sound when inspecting wooden surfaces or furniture. They may also damage the joists in your flooring, causing your tiles to sag and become loose. 

Meanwhile, the extent of damage by dampwood termites isn’t as severe as the destruction caused by subterranean and drywood termites. Most of the time, wooden structures that have been infested by dampwood species appear smooth inside and may also have a hollow sound.  

Signs of Dampwood and Drywood Termite Infestation  

Although drywood and dampwood termites are both wood-dwelling pests, there are different ways to determine the presence of their activity in your home. Here are the usual signs of infestation for drywood and dampwood species: 

Drywood termite Dampwood termites
You can typically find them behind wood framings,  attics, cracks, vents, and under eaves and overhangs You’ll notice frass droppings nearby their kick-out holes from their nests Hollow-sounding wood and squeaky floors also indicate drywood termite infestation Flying drywood termites also like to shed their wings on windowsills after swarming They don’t build shelter tubes on wood surfaces like most termite species do but they leave signs of fecal material or pellets inside their galleries You may also find discarded wings near horizontal surfaces or doors and window sills If you cut a piece of damaged wood, you may notice that it looks clean and soft inside since they like to eat the grain of decaying wood 

Common Pest Control Methods To Get Rid Of Dampwood and Drywood Termites 

pest staff setting up termite bait station

For Dampwood Termites: 

  • Termite bait stations - Bait systems are installed within the perimeter of your property and they contain food infused with a slow-acting insecticide. They work by attracting worker termites so they’ll bring back the toxic bait and share it with their entire colony. This method has been proven effective for exterminating the whole family of termites.
  • Liquid treatment - This termite treatment involves placing a chemical substance in the soil around your home. It creates a protective barrier that can keep pests away and kill the worker termites that go near it. 

For Drywood Termites: 

  • Localized or spot treatment - Termite spot treatments involve drilling holes into wooden surfaces and injecting an amount of termiticide. This method works if you’ve determined a localized termite infestation in your home. 
  • Wood treatment - This pest control method involves application of a termite repellent on the outer surface of wooden structures to prevent drywood termites from infesting and nibbling on them. 

How To Keep Dampwood and Drywood Termites Away From Your Property 

To avoid having termites in your home and to prevent a severe infestation from breaking out, here are some reminders that can help you make your home unattractive for these pests: 

  • Look for any possible source of moisture such as roof leaks, plumbing problems, and water leak from the AC. Be sure to repair them before dampwood termites settle in these environments. 
  • Replace damaged wood and use pressure-treated wood since they’re less vulnerable to decaying and won’t easily attract termites. 
  • Avoid placing stacks of firewood near to your home and keep them away from the ground. 
  • Drywood termites can also gain access to food sources via small openings so make sure to seal possible entry holes, cracks, and crevices. 
  • Place infested wood or furniture outside in the sun to remove excess moisture. Most termites can’t stand the heat so they may be killed by putting them under sun exposure. 

Get Expert Help For Your Termite Problem at Positive Pest Management 

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Dealing with a termite infestation begins with identifying which species of wood termite you have in your home. Dampwood and drywood termites have distinct nesting habits, swarming behaviors, and signs of infestation. 

Consulting with a pest control company can also help you better determine which type of termite is the source of your problem. At Positive Pest Management, our team of pest control technicians can perform termite inspections and recommend the best treatment approach for your space. We’re also experienced with exterminating other household pests like bed bugs, ants, rodents, and roaches. Contact us now to learn more about our pest control solutions.

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