Drywood Termites

( Family Kalotermitidae )

Characteristics

SIZE: Drywood termites are different sizes depending on their caste. Soldiers are typically three-eighths of an inch long. Reproductives (both male and female) measure one-half of an inch in length.

COLOR: A drywood termite is usually pale brown, though it can vary between dark brown and light, yellowish-tan. Alates, or winged termites, have wings that can be clear or smokey gray in color.

BEHAVIOR: As with other species of termites, drywood termites are organized in a caste system. Once a queen finds a good spot for a colony (often in the rafters of a home), she chooses a mate (or king) and begins laying eggs. The eggs hatch and join the worker caste that eats (and damages) wood and cares for the rest of the colony. As the termite colony ages, some of the termites develop into reproductive or soldier castes. Reproductive termites will grow wings, swarm and go off to form new colonies. Soldier termites protect the established colony from ants, other termites and various threats.

Like other species of termites, this species eats cellulose, which is found in wood and other plants. This is what makes wooden structures so appealing to them and why they are found in homes, fences and trees. However, drywood termites eat across the grain which destroys both the soft springwood growth and the harder summerwood growth. Most subterranean termites avoid the harder layers of wood, eating only the softer layers. Because they eat across the grain, the tunneling can lead to a building or tree collapsing if the colony’s network of tunnels grows too extensive.

Habitats

In the United States, drywood termites can be found in a narrow strip that runs roughly from Florida to California − warm to tropical climates where wooden structures are plentiful and winters are not severe.

A drywood termite likes to eat. And unlike its subterranean counterparts, it does not need moist soil or water nearby in order to thrive. Because they don’t need water, these termites are often found in dry wood above ground level. The wood they eat provides the moisture they need to survive, according to the AgriLifeExtension of the Texas A&M System.

Tips for Control

Seeing a swarm of reproductive termites, which emerge from small holes in the wood, is a common sign of an infestation, according to the AgriLifeExtension at Texas A&M University.Other signs include blistering of the wood surface, because the termites tunnel too close to the surface, and pellets. Drywood termite pellets are usually the color of the wood they are eating. They are smaller than grains of rice and pile up around damaged wood. Pellets are also commonly found inside tunnels.

To control drywood termites, a pest management professional is needed. To reduce your home’s attractiveness to termites, you should:

  • Keep firewood and other lumber away from your home’s foundation.

  • Place fitted, type 20 mesh screen on all doors, windows, vents, openings, etc., especially ones that lead to attics and crawl spaces.

  • Seal up any unfinished wood in, on and around your home. You can use paint, varnish or sealant, but make sure the coats are even and any nail holes or other cracks are sealed as well.

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