While most of us are familiar with the commonly encountered subterranean termite and its damage, we are less knowledgeable on the non-subterranean termites that populate many of our service areas. Termites other than subterranean termites are divided into two groups: drywood and dampwood termites.
It is important to be able to distinguish subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites groups from each other, because each type of termite is found in very different locations and require different treatment methods. In general, subterranean termites are usually located below ground level, and require contact with the soil. When traveling to food sources above ground, subterranean termites construct tunnels of mud tubes in order to conserve moisture.
Dampwood vs. drywood termites
Drywood termites will seek out sound or non-decayed wood in which to live. Unlike subterranean termites, they don’t require a connection with the soil or above ground moisture. All of the moisture they need is obtained from the wood they consume or through metabolism. Because of this, drywood termites are known to not only infest structural timbers and woodwork of buildings, but also furniture, wood flooring, and wooden articles of many other kinds.
Dampwood termites infest wood with a high degree of moisture and are typically associated with wood decay. Dampwood termite colonies are entirely wood-dwelling and most species don’t require contact with the soil. Because of this, they don’t construct mud tubes like subterranean termites do.
Difference between subterranean and non-subterranean termites
Drywood and dampwood termites are less commonly encountered compared to subterranean termites. In fact, within the U.S., subterranean termites are the by far the most widespread and economically important of all the termite groups. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of the potential damage drywood or dampwood termites can cause.
While subterranean termites are found virtually across the country (with the exception of a few northern states), drywood and dampwood termites usually occur along the southern margin of the U.S., through the southwest and up along the Pacific Coast. However, because drywood termites can infest wooden articles such as furniture, they have the potential to be found anywhere the furniture is moved to.
Drywood and dampwood termite infestations
The most common indication of a termite infestation (regardless of termite type) in a home or building is the presence of winged termites, called swarmers. Beginning in the spring, termite swarmers can emerge within structures by the hundreds or thousands and may be described by your customer as “flying ants.” One sign of a termite infestation unique to drywood termites is the presence of fecal pellets. Drywood termites will expel their fecal pellets through kick-out holes from their nests. If your customer describes what looks like a pile of “coarse sand” beneath a wooden beam or structure, they may have a drywood termite infestation. Dampwood termite infestations are harder to detect, as these termites burrow very deep within the wood and will plug up their entrance and exit holes with their fecal material.
Leave any questions about non-subterranean termites in the comments below!