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Smart Tips on How to Identify and Control Drywood Termites

How to Identify and Control Drywood Termites
Termites, being resilient and persistent, can pose a serious threat to your savings and property. Described here are the signs of termite infestation. Read on to know how to identify and get rid of drywood termites.
Leena Palande
Last Updated: Dec 27, 2018
Did You Know?
An established active, colony of mound-building termites is an indicator of underground springs. This fact was first mentioned by Varāhamihira (505 AD- 587 AD), an Indian astronomer and mathematician, in his piece of writing, Brihat Samhita, while explaining the science of underground water exploration.
Termites commonly known as 'white ants' are eusocial insects that live in colonies, divide labor and take care of their young ones, collectively. Taking into consideration their nesting and feeding habits, termites are classified as subterranean, soil-dwelling, drywood, dampwood, and grass-eating.
Subterranean and drywood termites, that cause extensive damage to man-made structures are common in North America. The subterraneans live underground. As the name suggests, drywood termites live in dry wood (dead plant material). They don't need soil to survive. Although they live in dry conditions, they get the necessary moisture from the wood they consume.
They stay concealed in wood; and most of the time their presence is detected only when the wood is severely damaged. They are usually found in the wood that is used as a part of house structure, wooden frames, roof material, furniture, and hardwood flooring.
Although they prefer dry areas, they are also found in wet areas like in wood encasing a leaky pipe or water heater. Termites are usually seen active in regions with warmer climates. And they are active throughout the year, even in winter. They are very common in Australia. They are found in every third Australian property.
Drywood termites feed on cellulose material which they get in books (paper), dried plants, cloth, furniture, carpets, and structural wood. Once they enter a home, they soon spread into rooms, floors, garage, and basement. In the U.S., the damage caused by termites, in a year, is estimated to be over a billion dollars.
And such type of damage is rarely covered in homeowner's insurance policies. Moreover, people are not aware of the dangers of termite infestation, as they are under-publicized. In fact, homeowners should know how to identify drywood termites, so that they can take preventive measures to control the infestation.
Signs of Drywood Termite Infestation
Termite infestation
Drywood termite infestation can be identified by piles of tiny fecal pellets. These wood-colored droppings are called frass. The color of the frass ranges from light cream to black. The pellets are about 1/25" long (like granules in the table salt).
The pellets are very dry as the termites extract water from the feces (to conserve it). Small piles of fecal pellets can be found below infestation. The workers in the termite colony kick them out of the tunnels regularly. You may be able to see pin-sized holes in walls and woodwork where termites have kicked out frass.
Mounds of these pellets suggest that termites are active. But, even after the colony is dead, the mounds of pellets will remain there only. Windowsills, wooden floors and furniture should be checked properly from time to time. Only a trained pest control professional, through inspection, will be able to judge whether the termites are currently active or not.
Wood Damage
Old damaged wood
Termites prefer dark and humid environment. So, they create tunnels in the wood as they colonize.
The wood surface would change eventually, if termites are inflicting damage. As the termites go on eating the wood from inside out, the wood may sound hollow when tapped. Also check for discoloration of wood.
White wing termites
Groups of winged reproductive termites that take flight and establish new colonies are called swarmers. The colonies can produce flying termites once or twice a year.
If you happen to see swarms of insects or even groups of insects without wings, call a termite specialist to identify them. If your neighbors have discovered termites, then you should also inspect your home thoroughly. Dark western drywood termite (the most destructive termite in the U.S.) swarmers are about 11-12.5 mm long, including wings.
Their wings are about 8.5 mm long. They swarm during daylight, usually during the months of May through early August, in Arizona. The reproductives of light western drywood termite (found in California and Arizona) are light chestnut-brown in color. Without wings, they are about 7 to 8 mm long. They swarm at dusk, from May through early September.
Wings of insect termite
As the swarmers drop their wings, you may locate the wings near window seals, door frames, in and around light fixtures, eaves of the roof, in the attic, or small openings in the wood.
Bubbles in the Paint
If you have applied paint on a wooden surface, termite infestation can cause the paint to blister and bubble.
Sagging Floors or Ceilings
Sagging floors or ceilings suggest that you should check them for termite infestation.
Drywood Termites Control
Timely Inspection
Man inspecting termites
The wood that sounds dull or hollow when tapped, should be examined closely.
Annual inspection by a termite specialist is an effective way of preventing major damage to your home. Call a licensed pest management company to complete an inspection. The person would be able to detect and identify the drywood termite species (if present) and will accordingly design the treatment.
Thermal Imaging
Infrared thermal imaging
These days, sensitive thermal cameras are used to detect the heat patterns from termite colonies. The cameras can detect the changes in the thermal patterns in floors, walls, and ceiling spaces.
Insects are cold-blooded creatures, but as they digest wood and cellulose, the metabolic processes generate heat. With the use of thermal imaging, the termites can be found before it's too late.
Seal All Cracks
Check cracks
Always check the basement first. If you see a hairline crack in the concrete or distorted paint on the wood surface, seal and paint it immediately.
Drywood termite size is so small that they can easily squeeze through a very thin crack. For reducing the potential for drywood termite infestations, regularly check your window and door frames.
Also check insides of built-in cabinets, fuse boxes set into walls, roof siding, wooden paneling, porch roofs and supports, stair carriages, trellises, and vents, etc. for cracks. A sound coat of paint over wood is an important part of termite treatment as it prevents them from entering into the wood.
Customized Treatment
After checking the species and the extent of termite infestation, termite specialist can recommend a customized treatment and prevention plan. The treatment usually involves use of liquid repellents, wood treatments, baits, and if necessary, fumigation of the entire structure.
Professional extermination methods can help protect the structure of your home. The termites can be spot-treated by injecting insecticides into the nest. Fumigation is recommended for large infestations (multiple colonies in the same structure).
Heat Treatment
Instead of a fumigant, hot air is pumped into the structure. This raises the temperature of the wood in the structure. High temperature, when maintained for an extended period of time, kills the termites.
Removal of Infested Wood
Before applying chemicals for remedial treatment, it is essential to remove the infested wood. You should remove all possible sources of outdoor infestation too, for example, wood chips, stored lumber, firewood, mulch, scrap lumber, dead trees or woody shrubbery, etc. Avoid creating moisture-rich habitats for termites to thrive.
Termite treatments for average size homes may cost $2500 or more. Identifying the signs of termite infestation early can save a lot of money and avoid stress. A perfectly designed home, use of properly cured, polished, or painted wood, some mechanical alterations, and proper sanitation can help restrict a termite's access to wood.