What’s the Difference Between Dampwood Termites and Drywood Termites?

drywood termite yellownecked

Many termite species are known for being home invaders, including subterranean termite, drywood termite, and dampwood termite. One way that they can be distinguished is through their swarming activity. And during late spring and summer months, the most active species are the drywood and dampwood termites. 

But what else are the differences between drywood termites and dampwood termites? While both are considered wood termites, the drywood termites thrive in humid environments and enter homes through cracks and holes in structural wood. Meanwhile, dampwood termites are drawn to high moisture environments and are usually found in areas with leaks or wet surroundings. They can also be differentiated by their physical features and infestation habits. 

Dampwood vs Drywood Termites 

Termites are always on the move looking for new places with plenty of food sources. They mainly get their nutrition from anything with cellulose such as plants, wood, paper, and even decaying barks and leaves on the ground (mulch). If these food sources are abundant within your property, termites will likely be attracted to your home and establish a colony.

But unlike its Eastern subterranean termite and Formosan termite counterparts, both dampwood and drywood termites don’t necessarily need contact with soil or ground to survive. To better identify them from other termite types, here are their main unique characteristics: 

1. Appearance 

Dampwood Termite: Dampwood termites tend to have larger sizes compared to drywood and subterranean species. Their swarmers (winged termites) can measure as long as 25 mm and soldier termites can be as wide as 20 mm. They are usually light to dark brown, with streaks of yellow or red in their body. They also have a huge head with mandibles on the front which they use to munch on wood. 

They are typically found in western states like California, Montana Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The common species of dampwood termites include Desert dampwood termite, Nevada dampwood termite, Florida dampwood termite, and Pacific dampwood termite.

Drywood Termite: Dry wood termites are smaller and have slimmer bodies. A drywood reproductive termite can only grow up to 11 mm while soldiers can reach as long as 12 mm. They have an elongated and narrow body that is usually oval and appear white or light brown. A drywood swarmer is closely similar to a flying carpenter ant but can be distinguished with its straight antenna and wings with distinct vein patterns.  

Drywood species such as Western drywood termite and Southeastern drywood termite are common among households in the southern states such as in South Carolina and Texas to coastal areas of California. 

2. Nesting Habits and Behaviors 

Dampwood Termite: They like to build their termite colony in decaying, damp wood since they need moisture and regular contact with water to survive. Indoor areas which are prone to water leaks, plumbing problems, and drainage spouts can attract damp wood termites. They can also be found outdoors near old trees, excess piles of moist wood, mulch, and fence posts. Gutters filled with leaves can retain moisture and present an attractive environment for these termites. 

A dampwood termite colony can contain up to 2,700 termite members. Since they are social insects, their colonies consist of castes which include the nymph termites (who function as the worker termites), reproductive termites (kings and queens), and soldiers who protect their nest. The months of January and October are typically when the dampwood winged swarmers fly and build their new colonies. 

Drywood Termite: The majority of drywood termites do not require water to survive. They commonly feed on cellulose from wooden structures and objects in homes. Their colonies can be found in dry hidden areas in attics, backboards, window frames, and even surrounding wooden furniture. 

The peak season for its winged termite is usually in late spring and summer. They can build multiple colonies in the infested wood and can contain up to 10,000 termite members. The amount of swarming termites (alates) that are produced depends on the size of the colony. Usually, there are about 100 drywood swarmers that take flight during their swarming season

3. Infestation Signs 

Dampwood Termite: They don’t particularly pose devastating wood damage to homes since dampwood termites don’t infest on wood unless they’re decaying or near moist surroundings. They do like to eat on natural wood grain and can excrete termite droppings or fecal pellets as signs of dampwood infestations. 

Another evidence of dampwood termite infestation is the presence of discarded wings which they shed after a swarm. They can be found in window sills, countertops, floors, and even cobwebs. 

Drywood Termite: Frass (fecal pellets) is one of the common drywood termite infestation signs. They like to create small holes in the wood they are inhabiting and usually push out their droppings through these exit holes. Its frass may appear grainy in texture with the same color of the wood they are nesting in. There’s also potential for big wood damage since drywood termites munch at their structures until they are hollow inside. They also leave behind wings after a swarm activity. 

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Termite Infestations Immediately? 

drywood termite damaged wood

Termites are one of the common household pest problems in the United States. When left untreated, they can cause significant structural damage to the foundation of the home. About 600,000 homes are affected by termite infestation annually and an estimated total of $5 billion is reported to be spent by residents for control and termite damage repair. 

The main culprit for most damaged wood and property is drywood termites. They’re more destructive compared to dampwood termites as they can eat at almost any wooden structure and break down their structural components and support beams until they become weak and collapse. They can also affect wood floorings and carpetings and ruin the appearance of walls and ceilings. 

Tips for Termite Control at Home 

Fortunately, most damaged woods can be easily remedied by replacing them with new wood materials or adding support to the ruined structure. There are also preventive measures that can be done to keep termites away from the indoors such as: 

  • Check roofs, drain pipes, air conditioner units for leaks to avoid accumulating high moisture content that can attract dampwood termites. 
  • Store excess piles of firewood at least 20 feet away from the home to prevent drywood termites.
  • There should also be a gap between your home and ground soil to avoid termites (particularly subterranean termite infestation) from entering through gaps and cracks from the outside. 
  • Do thorough inspections annually to check for any presence of mud tubes or holes in wood structures. 
  • Install termite screens or mesh along possible entry areas so termites cannot easily penetrate the home. 

Consulting with pest control professionals can also help in preventing advanced termite infestation. Depending on the degree of termite infestation, they can suggest liquid termiticides (a type of barrier applied within the home to block termites from entering), termite bait stations (lures out worker termites to ingest food with toxins), and tent fumigations (spraying a chemical gas within the property) to manage the termite problem. 

Solve Termite Infestation Problem with Pinnacle Pest Control 

While many distinct qualities set drywood and dampwood termites apart from each other, there’s no doubt that they are sources of distress for many homeowners. It’s important to first identify the type of termites present in your home so you can choose the appropriate termite treatment to eliminate them for good. 

Our team of experts at Pinnacle Pest Control can lead inspections of your property to determine the most effective solutions to your termite problem. We utilize the latest technology in pest control and offer quality products to get rid of any insects, termites, and bugs. Call us today and let’s discuss how we can make your home termite-free.  

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