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Drywood Termites

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Drywood Termites

Drywood termites look very similar to subterranean termites, but they are vastly different in their behavior and physiology.Because drywood termites obtain water solely from their own metabolism, they do not need to maintain contact with the soil or with an external source of moisture. There is often little external evidence of their presence.


Drywood Termites

Drywood Termites

The reproductives are winged (alates or swarmers) or wingless males and females that produce offspring. The primary reproductives, also called swarmers or alates, vary in body color from dark brown to light yellowish tan. Their wings may be almost clear to smoke gray, and have few distinct veins in them. Swarmer drywood termites are about 7/16 inch long, including the wings.


In most drywood species there is no true worker caste. This function is taken over by immatures. These immatures are wingless, white to beige in color, 1/4 to 3/8 inch long and make up the largest number of individuals within a colony. They gather food, enlarge the nest and feed and care for the queen, younger immature forms and others in the colony.


Soldiers resemble immatures in color and general appearance. However, they have large, brownish to yellowish-brown heads with enlarged, heavily sclerotized mandibles (jaws). Soldiers defend the colony against invaders, primarily ants. Soldiers are about 5/16 inch long.


Drywood termite colonies are much smaller than those of subterranean termites. In South Carolina, a mature colony may only have a few individuals to a few hundred members. It usually takes many years for a colony to have swarmers. If conditions are favorable, a male and female swarmer (king and queen) will begin a colony in a crack or other opening in wood.


Drywood Termites

Drywood Termites

Drywood termite infestations are usually confined to a small area and may be found in structural wood, trim, hardwood floors, furniture, or other wood items. These termites can re-infest after producing swarmers, so older structures are more likely to have multiple infestations than newer ones. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites eat both across and with the grain of the wood. Drywood termites form their galleries up to the surface of the wood, leaving only a thin layer intact.


Life Cycle:After a termite colony matures, which requires from 2 to 4 years, swarmers are produced. Swarming usually occurs from January through April, during the daylight hours, usually after a rain. Environmental factors such as heat, light and moisture trigger the emergence of swarmers. Each species has a definite set of conditions under which it swarms. The number of swarmers produced is proportionate to the age and size of the colony .


Male and female alates fly from the colony and travel varying distances. They are extremely weak flyers, but individuals can travel great distances carried by air currents during the summer monsoon season. Any alates that try to return from the outside are usually killed. Often, the soldier castes congregate around colony openings to defend the release of the alates.


Immatures hatch within several weeks and are cared for by the king and queen. After two molts, immatures assume the role of workers and begin to feed and care for the original pair. Eggs are not deposited continuously, and in fact, very few are deposited the first year. In subsequent years, the young queen matures and will lay more eggs. Eventually, the colony stabilizes when the queen reaches maximum egg production. At that point the colony will contain eggs, immatures, soldiers and reproductives.


Drywood Termites

Drywood Termites Soldiers

If the queen dies, one or more secondary reproductives take over her duties. The maximum size of a colony depends on factors such as location, food availability and environmental conditions. Most colonies remain small, but multiple colonies in the same piece of wood may contain up to 10,000 individuals. A colony grows through the queen’s increased egg production and the accumulation of long-lived individuals.


A small number of the swarmers survive to develop colonies. The majority fall prey to birds, toads, reptiles, insects (primarily ants) and other predators. Many others die from dehydration or injury. When a pair alights, they shed or pull off their wings and immediately attempt to enter wood. Swarmers usually enter wood through cracks, natural checks, overlapping or adjoining pieces, or exposed end grain. A very small nest is developed after the pair has mated. Initially the queen lays relatively few eggs. The male, or king, remains with the female, since periodic mating is required for continued egg development.


Damage : Dead trees, branches, brush and firewood from residential areas are the primary habitat of drywood termites. When land is cleared and houses or other buildings constructed, these structures are then subject to attack. Drywood termites enter structures through attic or foundation vents, directly through or under wood shingles, under eaves and fascia boards, and through natural cracks, checks and joints in exposed wood trim, window and door frames and sills.


Subterranean Termites

Subterranean Termites Damage

Control: Control of drywood termites is straightforward. Since these species form small colonies, The location can be in furniture or inside of wall studs or framing, but not in wall voids. Wood surfaces can give some clue to nest locations. Drywood termites can chew away wood until only a thin sheet remains separating them from the environment. These thin areas can sometimes be seen, but usually can be easily felt on the wood surface. Piles of frass are great indicators of an infestation. Frass should be swept away and the spot examined daily for new frass. If no new frass appears in a week or two, then the infestation may have either moved or died out at that location.


New frass is found, look on wood surfaces (furniture, cabinets, even the ceiling) above the pile for a small hole (1⁄16th inch in diameter), which will probably be discolored and sealed by the termites inside. This is a kick out hole and is a location of drywood termite activity. Often, when a piece of furniture is suspected of having a drywood infestation, it pays to tap the wood soundly and look for falling frass. It should be fairly easy to find the kick out holes using this method.


Once found, drywood termites can either be spot-treated by injecting insecticides into the nest or, for large infestations where multiple colonies are in the same structure, fumigated. Inspection and treatment should only be done by a licensed pest control operator2. These termites do not form long tunnels or forage great distances so there is no need to worry about their finding a refuge from the injection or fumigation treatment.



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