What Are the Signs of an Active Drywood Termite Infestation?

Termite tunnel

Uncontrolled termites infestation brings several problems to homeowners and causes great property damage that often amounts to thousands of dollars in repair. Knowing the signs of termite activity can help in preventing extensive termite problems to the home. And one of the termite species that households should be on the lookout for is drywood termites. 

So what are the common warning signs of active drywood termite infestation? Drywood termites thrive in dry wood structures and surfaces. They produce piles of termite droppings (frass) that accumulate outside the entrance to their colony. Discarded wings of flying termites, hollow and damaged wood, as well as clicking noises within walls are also indicative of drywood termite activity. 

What Does Active vs Non-Active Infestation Mean? 

Regardless of its termite species, if you see fresh mounds of termite frass, reappearing blisters or mud tubes on wood surfaces, and squeaky floorboards, it can mean an active termite infestation in your home. An active infestation means that live termites and pests are living and currently infesting your property. 

Meanwhile, an inactive infestation pertains to a previous infestation that has already been dealt with. There is no more visible evidence of live termites since they have already been exterminated with pest control treatments. For example, dry and empty mud tubes (for subterranean termites) can mean non-active termite infestation. 

Upon declaring the status of inactive infestation, homeowners can generally proceed with repairs and it is advised to put up preventive measures to avoid reinfestation. 

How to Tell If Drywood Termites Are Active  

Not all termite infestation signs are the same, especially since each termite species have unique characteristics and swarm in different seasons. The swarming season for drywood termites is during late spring to summer and early fall months. 

Drywood termites are among the most destructive termite species together with formosan termite, dampwood termite, and subterranean termite. Detecting a possible drywood termite infestation is easy when you know the following signs: 

1. Fecal pellets (termite feces or frass) 

Drywood termites have a habit of chewing across the infested wood they are living in. Once they find a suitable location for their colony, they begin creating tunnels or galleries which serve as their pathway. Often, there will be a presence of small exit holes or “kick holes” in the walls where they will enter and exit whenever leaving their colony. 

Unlike subterranean termites that use fecal pellets to build their mud tubes, drywood termite dropping is excreted through the exit holes. They prefer to have their galleries clean so they push out the frass and let them accumulate outside their nests. Most of the time, drywood termite pellets appear sawdust-like and grainy in texture and present as small droppings with the same color of the wood that termites are living in. 

2. Discarded wings 

Wings from flying termites known as swarmers or alates are another telling sign of drywood termite infestation. These winged termites are the reproductive termites (king and queen) of a colony who are in charge of leaving the nest and creating new colonies to expand their population. 

This typically happens during a termite swarm season where the alates take flight for a few seconds to find their partners before landing and searching for a new location. Swarming termites shed their wings as soon as they have a partner and begin their reproduction in the new colony. 

These swarmers may often be confused with flying ants (carpenter ant) who are also active at the same time of the year. To differentiate them, termite swarmers have equal size wings that are creamy-white and almost transparent in color; while flying ants have wings that are disproportionate and have reddish-brown hues. Flying termites also have straight antennae and thick waists, whereas carpenter ants have crooked antennae and narrow waists. 

3. Damaged wood 

Drywood termites do not require water or soil to survive, unlike other termite counterparts. They can thrive in humid environments and get their nutrition from cellulose inside the dry wood. Because of this, they can aggressively chomp on wood, making their insides hollow and empty and leaving only a thin layer of the surface. 

One way to find out termite wood damage is by knocking on the surface of the wood. When it creates a hollow and dull sound, it can mean that termites have consumed all of the timber inside. Another infestation sign is the presence of burrows or termite galleries which are the tunnels that termites usually create. 

It can be difficult to detect them from the outside so it usually requires breaking a piece of the wood to see the termite galleries. Drywood termite tunnels are usually clean so any presence of frass or mud along the trail is a sign of subterranean termite infestation. 

4. Noises within walls

If you listen closely, you might be able to hear soft clicking sounds coming from inside the walls. These noises belong to the worker termites who are loud eaters and can create quite a ruckus as they munch on the woods. Soldier termites are also known to do “head-bang” which is usually their warning signal to the rest of the colony. When they sense potential danger or threats in their surroundings, the soldiers hit their heads against the walls of the tunnels. 

5. Hard to open and close windows and doors 

Some windows and doors may also become difficult to open or close. When termites chew on the wood, the galleries they create can build moisture inside which can distort the fixture and make it challenging to push close, or pull open the windows and doors. 

Identifying Drywood Termites: What They Look Like and How They Behave 

drywood termite yellownecked

Drywood termites are rampant in areas with high levels of humidity. They are largely located in coastal areas in South Carolina to Texas and up to California. Western drywood termite and Southeastern drywood termite are among the common species of the drywood family. 

The average size of a drywood termite is between ⅜ inch to 1 inch long. They are typically long, narrow, and oval. They appear white or light brown and have short legs, a thick waist, and a straight antenna. Drywood termite swarmers have distinct sets of wings that have well-pigmented venation on the front wings. 

Drywood termites can be hard to detect since they primarily reside in the interiors of the wood. They can infiltrate households through exposed cracks and gaps in any structural wood. Since they can survive without soil, a drywood termite colony can be located in areas above the ground such as attics, backboards, and soffit areas. 

Read more: How Do Termites Get Into Your House? Your Guide To Termite-Free Living

Having a thorough termite inspection can help in searching for droppings and termite exit holes to determine possible locations of their colony. While it can take years of undetected termite problem to bring down a house or commercial building, the termite damage can still ruin pieces of wooden furniture, floorings, window frames, and doors when left unmanaged. 

Getting Rid of Drywood Termites  

There are many commercial pest control treatments available to manage termite infestation at home. One of the most common methods is liquid termite treatment which acts as a barrier that blocks termites from entering the home. Most liquid termiticides have strong chemicals that repel and kill termites almost instantly. However, this requires help from a pest control expert to set up the trench and apply the chemical around the property. 

Another effective treatment to get rid of termites are bait stations. Termite baits contain any cellulose-rich food mixed with toxic insecticide substances (such as boric acid). They work by luring out the worker termites to pick up the bait and share them with the rest of the colony. Baits are a slow-acting treatment but they can successfully kill an entire colony when strategically located in areas with high infestations. 

Fumigation, or tenting, is also considered an option for termite killing. It’s usually done by a team of pest management professionals where they release a fumigant or chemical gas over the property to eliminate termites. This method requires residents to be out of the vicinity of their house when the gas is released since it can be dangerous to their health. 

Preventive Management of Termites at Home 

Year-round termite prevention is also important to manage the infestation at home. Some of the useful preventive measures that can help keep termites from entering the house are: 

  • Avoid drywood termites by putting excess piles or blocks of firewood at least 20 feet away from the home. 
  • Seal any cracks or small holes where termites can enter from the outside. Termite screens or mesh can be installed in possible entry areas so they cannot easily penetrate the home. 
  • Routinely check for leakages in roofs, drain pipes, faucets, and even air conditioner units to avoid accumulating moisture that can attract dampwood termites. 
  • Make sure that any mulch or plants are not placed too close to the property so they will not grow against the wooden surfaces and invite termites inside. 

Get Expert Help with Termites at Pinnacle Pest Control 

Drywood termite activity can easily be recognized when you know its common infestation signs which include termite frass, shedded wings, wood damage, and clicking sounds within the walls. Once you have pinpointed the possible areas where they have infested, you can now enlist the help of an expert pest control team to get rid of the termites for good. 

We, at Pinnacle Pest Control, are committed to providing professional pest and termite control solutions to your homes. Our team is trained and knowledgeable in the latest technology for exterminating all kinds of pests, termites, and even rodents that infest your property. Call us today and learn more about our services and products. 

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