Pacific Dampwood Termites


  • Scientific name: Zootermopsis angusticollis
  • Size: 5/8th to 3/4th of an inch (soldiers), 1 inch (swarmers)
  • Color: Light caramel bodies with dark, rounded, reddish heads and black mandibles
  • Shape: Long, rounded bodies with short, curved mandibles
  • Found in: The Pacific states of California, Oregon and Washington

What are they?
Pacific dampwood termites occur in cool and humid coastal states along the Pacific ocean. They have been found as high as the 6,000 feet above sea level, but are more likely to occur further down in elevation. These termites can vary in colour based on their stomach contents, as can their frass. They are also the largest type of termite in the United States, the soldiers alone reaching almost an inch in length. They are also known for being partial to no specific species of wood in particular. They have smaller colony sizes, with a large colony being only 4,000 members.
How can you tell you have them?
Pacific dampwood termites can sometimes be very difficult to spot because they burrow deeply within the wood to escape the drier conditions of the outside air. Like most termite species, the Pacific dampwood termite can be spotted if you know what time of year they are likely to swarm. The swarmers of this particular species of termite are quite large, over an inch in length and can be very easy to spot. The swarmers from the Pacific dampwood termite tend to be out in the late summer and early fall and like to swarm in the late evening. They are most likely to swarm after rains. If you suspect that you may have a dampwood termite species the simplest way to test and area of wood you suspect may be infested is to tap or poke it with your finger. Since this type of termite prefers very wet timber, the area affected will feel spongy or mushy to the touch.
What kind of environment do they like?
This type of termite can survive on a very large range of timber species. They prefer cool, damp, coastal climates. Areas that can be threatened by them include structures or timber in or near water. This includes beach houses, boat houses and other structures that are easily accessed by water such as piers. They are extremely tolerant of moist to wet conditions, even found on structures subject to tidal flooding.
Eating habits
These termites subsist on very moisture rich wood. Like other termite species, this species of termite helps to spread wood fungi, which they carry spores for in their digestive system. The Pacific dampwood termite likes to burrow deeply into the timber that they infest to keep out of the way of any dry outside conditions. They do not need to retain contact with the soil but after swarming, a mated pair of reproductives will excavate a chamber
What to do?
As with most species of dampwood termites, eradication of the Pacific dampwood termite is best accomplished by finding and cutting of the source of the moisture problem. However, because of how much this termite thrives on rotting, water-heavy timber, it may not be possible to remove the water source from the damaged wood, as with docks, boats and piers. Because this termite likes rotten wood as well, there may be little choice but to replace wood infested with these particular termites as it may very be to rotted already to save.

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