- Scientific name: Termopsidae
- Size: ½ inch to 5/8 inch
- Color: Yellowish to light brown on head
- Shape: long bodied with a large rectangular head
- Found in: Southwest US, Pacific Coast and central to southern Florida
What are they?
Dampwood termites, like the name suggests, prefer a moist environment for their colonies. However, unlike their Subterranean counterparts, the dampwood termite does not require contact with the soil to thrive, instead making their colonies within the wood they eat. Dampwood termites consume the wood along the grain, going more for the softer parts of the wood. Dampwood termites can be some of the hardest termites to diagnose because there is often little outer evidence of an infestation. Dampwood termites are some of the largest termite species.
If conditions are dry around the infested wood, it is possible to spot frass that has detached from the inner gallery walls of the colony from where they are used to plug the tunnel openings. You can also spot the cast off wings from the swarmers near where a new or existing colony has formed as termites can’t travel very far. Swarmers are attracted to light and therefore the wings can be found near windows.
How can you tell you have them?
Dampwood termite colonies are notorious for there being very few outward signs of their infestation. Even the normal signs of termite infestation, the “frass” or droppings, are used to seal the outer part of the tunnels and therefore are not often seen in great quantities outside of the area of damage. As dampwood termites do not require contact with the soil to flourish, there are not tunnels or mounds for the homeowner to spot.
What kind of Environment do they like?
It is advisable for homeowners to remain aware that this type of termite dwells primarily in damp, moist or otherwise rotted wood that has a high water content. In this case, it’s best for a homeowner who suspects that their home may be at risk for this type of termite to check and see if there are portions of the structure of their home that are at risk for damp. Find the damp and you’ll find the area most at risk for this type of termite! So check for dripping pipes, leaks in the outer structure of the house (such as siding and roofing) and wood that has contact with the ground. These are the type of areas you can start looking for dampwood termites infestations.
dampwood termites, unlike their subterranean counterparts, eat stable woods with the grain, not across it, along the path of least resistance therefore wood infested with this type of termite can sound hollow if tapped. In wood that is already compromised, such as that that has been exposed long-term to damp, this type of termite will eat across the grain of the wood and form galleries and tunnels like their drywood termite counterparts.
What to do?
Because they do not need contact with the soil like other types of termites, dampwood termite colonies can be difficult to exterminate, needing inter-wood treatments, but, as their name implies, these termites thrive on the moisture content of the wood. Look to treatment of damp in a structure before resorting to invasive eradication techniques. As this can sometimes mean replacing the wood that is infested with treated lumber, this is most of the time a project best left to professionals.