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Wood Termites: Termite Prevention, Mitigation, and Control

Table of Contents

Drywood termites represent a unique species within the termite family, notorious for their ability to inhabit and deteriorate solid, dry wooden structures. These pests are adept at settling in various wooden elements of a house, ranging from integral structural components to everyday items like furniture, decorative frames, and stair railings.

Unlike other termite species that typically establish colonies in moist soil, drywood termites directly infest dry wood and derive the moisture they need from the wood fibers they consume.

Geographically, drywood termites are predominantly found in areas like the West Coast of the United States, stretching across Florida and reaching as far as Hawaii. Their habitat, however, is not limited to these regions, as they have been identified in areas extending eastward to Texas and even the Carolinas.

The damage they cause can be as severe as that inflicted by other termite species, making it crucial for homeowners to be vigilant. Early detection and prompt treatment are key in preventing extensive damage caused by drywood termite infestations.

Wood Termites

Spottig Drywood Termites: Key Signs and Strategies for Detection

Drywood termites, elusive by nature, often escape notice due to their tendency to burrow deep within wooden structures. Typically, they remain hidden, dwelling inside wood, and are rarely seen unless during their swarming phase or when their inhabited structures undergo repairs.

A drywood termite colony is usually small, comprising less than a thousand members. These colonies are often spread out and take several years to reach maturity.

The most noticeable sign of their presence is the appearance of flying adults, known as swarmers, particularly during the summer and fall months during daylight. While dampwood termites also swarm in the same season, they differ in size and show a distinct attraction to lights after dark.

In southeastern California, another species, Marginitermes hubbardi, along with certain desert subterranean termites, may also be spotted swarming towards light sources.

For homeowners, initial indicators of a drywood termite infestation might include the sighting of these swarmers or the discovery of their fecal pellets. However, a thorough inspection to ascertain the full extent of an infestation requires professional expertise.

In states like California, termite inspections are legally mandated to include a visual examination of accessible areas. Yet, uncovering more concealed infestations may necessitate more invasive measures, such as the removal of wall panels, stucco, and the use of special equipment.

During inspections, professionals look for specific signs of drywood termite activity: evidence of feeding, discarded wings, fecal pellets, and kick out holes. Kick Out holes are tiny openings, less than 2mm in diameter, through which termites expel fecal pellets from wood. These pellets are unique to drywood termites, characterized by their hexagonal shape.

However, the presence of pellets alone does not confirm an active infestation or reveal its full scale. In comparison, dampwood termites produce fecal pellets that are rounded and elongated, lacking the distinct ridges found on drywood termite pellets.

Misidentification is common, with pests like wood-boring beetles and carpenter ants often mistaken for termites. An expert may be required for accurate identification. One method to check for active infestations is to clear away pellets near a kick out hole and monitor for new pellets over several days, as building vibrations can also cause pellets to appear.

While the pest control industry has experimented with various detection methods, including trained dogs, acoustic emission devices, fiber-optic tools, microwave-based systems, and odor detectors, these techniques are not widely used.

The primary method remains visual inspection by trained professionals, who look for evidence of termites and the damage they cause.

Identification Key Points for Drywood Termites:

  • Swarming Adults (Swarmers): The appearance of flying adults, especially during daylight hours in summer and fall, is a common indicator. These swarmers are often mistaken for other species but can be identified by their specific size and behavior.
  • Fecal Pellets: Unique, hexagonally shaped fecal pellets are a distinctive sign of drywood termites. These pellets are pushed out of wood through small holes, known as kick out holes, and are often found accumulated beneath infested wood.
  • Kick Out Holes: These are tiny openings (less than 2mm in diameter) on wooden surfaces. Drywood termites create these holes to expel fecal pellets from their nests.
  • Wood Damage: Look for signs of feeding on wood, such as hollowed-out wood or wood that sounds hollow when tapped. The damage is usually more severe than it appears on the surface.
  • Discarded Wings: After swarming, drywood termites shed their wings. The presence of these discarded wings near window sills, doors, or other light sources is a common sign of an infestation.
  • Audible Activity: In some cases, faint tapping or clicking sounds within the walls can be heard. These are caused by the termites as they move and eat through the wood.
  • Visual Inspection: Regularly inspect accessible wood structures for signs of damage or the presence of termites. This includes checking under siding, roof eaves, and in attics and basements.
  • Professional Inspection: Because drywood termites are difficult to detect, professional inspections are recommended. Experts use specialized techniques to identify and assess the extent of an infestation.

Remember, identifying drywood termites often requires a combination of these signs and sometimes the expertise of a professional. Early detection is key to preventing extensive damage.

DryWood Termite Treatment-Cost

Habitats and Behavior of Drywood Termites:

Habitats Rid:

  • Preference for Dry Wood: Unlike other termites, drywood termites exclusively inhabit and consume dry wood. They are found in a range of wooden structures, from the timber used in building frameworks to furniture and wooden artifacts within homes.
  • Geographical Distribution: Commonly found in coastal, subtropical, and tropical regions, particularly in states like California, Florida, and Hawaii in the United States. They can also be present in other areas with similar climates.
  • Indoor and Outdoor Environments: While they primarily infest indoor wooden structures, they can also be found in outdoor wood sources such as dead trees, fence posts, and utility poles.
  • No Need for Soil Contact: Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites do not require contact with soil and are capable of establishing colonies solely within wooden materials.


  • Colony Establishment: After swarming and mating, drywood termite pairs start new colonies in suitable wood sources. The development of a colony is slow, often taking years to mature.
  • Self-Sufficient Colonies: Each colony is relatively self-contained and small in number, typically consisting of a few hundred to a few thousand individuals. This smaller colony size contributes to the difficulty in detecting them early.
  • Moisture from Wood: These termites extract the moisture they need from the wood they consume, enabling them to thrive in dry conditions where other termites cannot.
  • Swarming Patterns: Swarming usually occurs in warmer months, often after a rise in temperature following rain. The swarmers are attracted to light, which can lead to them being found near windows or light fixtures.
  • Feeding Habits: Drywood termites consume wood across the grain, incorporating both the soft springwood and harder summerwood. This can lead to clean galleries with a smooth appearance, different from the rougher feeding patterns of subterranean termites.
  • Minimal Interaction with Environment: They rarely venture outside their wooden habitat, limiting their exposure to the external environment and making them hard to detect.

Drywood Termites:

Appearance of Damaged Wood
Drywood Termites
Creamy white to light brown
Equal length, clear to smoky gray, shed quickly after swarming
1/4 inch to 1 inch (6.35mm to 25.4mm)
Smooth, sculptured appearance in galleries; consume both springwood and summerwood
Primarily found coastally from South Carolina westward to Texas and up the west coast of California 


  • Soldiers have black, square-shaped heads with short mandibles. Workers are smaller with soft, white bodies​​​​​​.
  • The presence of fecal pellets (about 1/32 inches long, color of the wood they feed on) near infested wood is a sign of infestation​​​​.
  • They live in sound, dry wood above the ground, extracting moisture from the wood they ingest, and do not need contact with the soil​​​​.
  • Common habitats include structural timbers, furniture, picture frames, and banisters​​​​.

Drywood Termites

Types of Drywood Termites

  1. Desert Drywood Termites: Commonly found in desert climates, these termites are adapted to dry environments.
  2. Southeastern Drywood Termites: Prevalent in the southeastern United States, they are known for causing damage to homes and buildings.
  3. Western Drywood Termites: Predominantly found in the western states, they are responsible for significant structural damage.

Geographic Distribution

In the United States, drywood termites are most commonly found in coastal, southern, and western states, with a notable presence in Florida, where the warm and humid climate favors their growth.

Seriousness of Infestation

The damage caused by drywood termites can be severe as they consume wood from the inside out, potentially compromising the structural integrity of buildings. Their ability to go undetected for long periods allows for extensive damage before discovery.

Comparison with Other Termite Species

Compared to subterranean termites, drywood termites do not create mud tubes and are less dependent on moisture. However, their damage can be just as severe, if not more so, due to their discreet nesting and feeding habits.

Signs of Infestation

Understanding the signs of drywood termite infestation is crucial for early detection and effective management.

Subtle Signs of an Infestation

Early detection of drywood termites involves noticing subtle signs. These include:

  • Unusual sounds: Soft clicking sounds within walls, as termites bang their heads against wood or shake their bodies when disturbed.
  • Discarded wings: Finding small, translucent wings near windowsills or spider webs is often a sign of a recent termite swarm.
  • Hollow-sounding wood: Termites consume wood from the inside, leaving a thin veneer of timber or paint. When tapped, this wood sounds hollow.

Characteristics of Damaged Wood

Damaged wood often has a honeycomb interior and lacks mud tubes, unlike damage from subterranean termites. The wood may appear crushed at structural bearing points.

Drywood Termite Droppings (Frass)

Drywood termites leave behind dry, six-sided frass (droppings), often found in small mounds. This is a distinct sign differentiating them from other termite species.

Swarmer Termites and Discarded Wings

Reproductive termites, or swarmers, emerge to create new colonies. Finding these winged termites or their discarded wings is a strong indicator of an active or past infestation.

Behavior, Diet, and Habits

Understanding the behavior and diet of drywood termites is essential for recognizing and managing infestations.

Feeding and Living Habits

Drywood termites feed on wood, obtaining the necessary nutrients from cellulose. They live within the wood they consume, creating a network of galleries and tunnels.

Swarm Behavior and Reproduction

Swarming usually occurs in warm conditions, often after rain. The swarmers fly out to mate and establish new colonies. After mating, they shed their wings, with the females becoming queens of new colonies.

Management and Treatment

Choosing the right treatment method is critical for effectively managing drywood termite infestations.

Whole-structure vs. Localized Treatments

  • Whole-structure Treatments: These involve fumigating the entire building with gas, ensuring that all infested areas are treated. It’s a comprehensive solution but requires vacating the premises for a few days.
  • Localized Treatments: These treatments target specific infested areas and include methods like spot treatment, heat treatment, and freezing. They are less disruptive but may not address hidden infestations.

Natural and Chemical Treatment Methods

  • Natural Treatments: Options include heat treatments (raising the temperature of infested wood to a level that termites cannot survive) and cold treatments (using liquid nitrogen).
  • Chemical Treatments: These involve applying termiticides directly to the infested areas. It’s essential to use environmentally safe chemicals and follow safety guidelines.

Professional Services

Professional pest control services, such as Orkin, offer specialized treatment plans. They conduct thorough inspections, recommend the best treatment options, and provide follow-up services.

Cost and Effectiveness of Different Treatments

The cost and effectiveness vary depending on the infestation’s extent, the chosen method, and the property’s size. Whole-structure treatments are generally more expensive but more thorough, while localized treatments are more affordable but may require multiple applications.

Long-term Preventive Treatments

Preventive measures include regular inspections, maintaining a dry environment, sealing entry points, and using termite-resistant wood and paints.

DIY Solutions and Tips

Homeowners can take steps to control and prevent drywood termite infestations.

How to Kill Drywood Termites Naturally?

Natural methods include exposing infested wood to sunlight, using borate solutions (applied during the construction phase), and maintaining low humidity levels.

Preventative Measures

Regular inspections, especially in vulnerable areas like attics and basements, are vital. Reducing wood-to-ground contact and storing firewood away from the home also help.

Environmental and Safety Considerations

When using chemical treatments, it’s essential to consider their environmental impact. Opt for eco-friendly options and follow all safety guidelines to protect the household and environment.

Early signs include finding frass (termite droppings), discarded wings from swarmers, and tapping on wood to check for hollowness. If you suspect termites, contact a professional pest control service for an inspection.

They can assess the extent of the infestation and recommend appropriate treatment. It’s advisable to call professionals if you notice signs of an infestation, such as frass or hollow-sounding wood. Early professional intervention can prevent extensive damage.

Post-treatment maintenance includes regular inspections, maintaining a dry environment, repairing leaks, and sealing entry points to prevent reinfestation. This depends on the treatment type. For chemical treatments or fumigation, you may need to leave your home temporarily. For localized treatments, it might be safe to stay.

Further Reading and Resources

To deepen your understanding of drywood termites and their management, numerous resources are available:

Academic Journals and Entomology Studies:

These provide detailed scientific insights into the behavior, biology, and control methods of drywood termites.

Extension Services:

Many university extension services offer comprehensive guides on termite identification and control, tailored to specific regions.

Government Resources:

Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide guidelines on safe and effective termite treatments.

Detailed Studies and Research on Drywood Termites

Research studies offer in-depth information on various aspects of drywood termites:

  • Behavioral Studies: These explore the social structure and feeding habits of drywood termites.
  • Treatment Efficacy Research: Studies that evaluate the effectiveness of different treatment methods, including natural and chemical options.
  • Environmental Impact Reports: Research on the ecological impact of termite control methods, focusing on sustainability and safety.

Case Studies

Case studies from specific regions, such as Florida or the Western United States, can provide real-world examples of termite infestation management and successful eradication strategies.

Contact Information for Professional Help for professional assistance:

  • Contact local pest control services with proven expertise in termite management.
  • Seek recommendations from local extension services or the National Pest Management Association.

Final Thought

In conclusion, understanding and managing drywood termite infestations require a comprehensive approach. From identifying the initial signs of an infestation to selecting the most appropriate treatment and preventive measures, each step is crucial in effectively controlling these pests.

Drywood termites can cause significant damage to wooden structures. Early detection and identification are key to preventing extensive damage. Treatment options range from whole-structure fumigation to localized natural methods. Regular inspections and preventive measures are essential in termite management.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Best Methods for Eradicating Drywood Termites?

The best methods vary depending on the infestation’s severity. For widespread infestations, whole-structure treatments like fumigation are most effective. For localized infestations, treatments like heat treatment, freezing, or chemical spot treatments can be sufficient.

What Challenges are Faced in Eliminating Drywood Termites?

One of the main challenges is detecting all infested areas, as termites often reside deep within wooden structures. Ensuring complete eradication without leaving any untreated colonies is another challenge.

Are there Effective Alternatives to Tenting for Termite Control?

Yes, alternatives include localized treatments such as spot chemical treatments, heat treatments, and freezing. However, these might be less effective if the infestation is not localized.

How Long Does Termite Treatment Last?

The longevity of termite treatment varies. Chemical treatments can last up to five years, but environmental factors and the chemical’s formulation can affect this. Regular inspections are recommended to ensure ongoing protection.

Can Drywood Termites be Prevented?

Prevention is possible through measures like using termite-resistant wood, sealing cracks and crevices, maintaining low moisture levels, and conducting regular inspections. However, complete prevention may not be feasible in all environments.

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