Facts, Identification & Control
Zootermopsis spp. and Neotermes spp.
There are several species of dampwood termites in the United States. Dampwood termites are much larger then the subterranean termites that are common across the country. The swarmers (winged termites) can be 25 mm long, including their wings. The soldiers can be as large as 20 mm. They have a large head with mandibles (pincers) on the front. There are no dampwood termite workers. The immature termites do the work in the colony. The immature termites can be as much as 20 mm long.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Dampwood termites get their name from the damp, sometimes decaying, wood that they use to locate their colonies. Dampwood termites do not typically nest in the soil. They will invade wood that is on the ground, especially if it is decaying. Dampwood termites are common along the Pacific coast. They are considered an economic pest. There are also dampwood termites in the Southwest desert and in southern Florida.
A pair of winged swarmers starts a colony of dampwood termites. They find a suitable piece of wood and make a chamber in it. They produce a few eggs the first year. Colonies are usually small, but in ideal conditions dampwood termite colonies can become large.
Signs of Dampwood Termite Infestation
Dampwood termites do not usually have contact with the soil. They do not make tunnels like the subterranean termites. Wood that dampwood termites have damaged usually looks clean and smooth inside. They often eat across the grain, especially in wood that is decayed.
The dampwood termites sometimes use their fecal pellets to seal the galleries where they live from the outside air. If the wood is fairly dry, the fecal pellets may fall to the bottom of the gallery. If the wood is very damp, the fecal pellets may stick to the sides of the termite galleries.
Large winged swarmers, winged males and females, are produced for the purpose of mating and starting new colonies. These may be confused with winged ants, but the termites have straight antennae, four pairs of equal length wings and a straight sided body.
Because moisture is critical to these termites, solving moisture problems is an important part of dampwood termite control. Plumbing problems, leaks in roof or siding, wood that is touching the ground and even rainwater drainage are all examples of situations that may need to be addressed.
After the moisture conditions have been corrected, the damaged wood can be replaced. It is sometimes necessary to use treated wood.
Termiticide treatment in the wood is sometimes necessary. Because these treatments require special tools and equipment, it is advisable to call a termite control professional.