Drywood Termites: A Comprehensive Guide to Identification and Control

Drywood termites are a unique species of termites that, unlike their subterranean counterparts, do not require contact with the soil to survive. Like dampwood termites, they are known for their ability to create colonies in wood and occasionally other cellulose material, with no connection to the ground necessary. This makes them a significant threat to homes, as they can cause extensive damage to structural wood, furniture, and other cellulose-based materials.

Drywood Termite Identification

Physical Characteristics

Drywood termites have distinct physical characteristics that set them apart from other species. They are generally larger than subterranean termites (see formosan termites as an example), with soldiers and workers larger than their counterparts. The alates, or swarmers, have two sets of wings with a pattern of three or more heavy, well-pigmented veins in the outer part of the front wing. After swarming, they shed their wings very quickly, so most dead swarmer bodies do not have attached wings.

Drywood Termite Castes

Like other termite species, drywood termites have a caste system consisting of alates (reproductive termites), soldiers, and workers. Each caste has a specific role in the colony:

  • Alates: Also known as swarmers, alates are the reproductive members of the drywood termite colony. They are larger than other castes and have two pairs of wings roughly equal in length. These wings are shed quickly after swarming.
  • Soldiers: Drywood termite soldiers defend the colony from potential threats. They have large mandibles (mouthparts) with teeth, and their pronotum is as wide or wider than the head.
  • Workers: The workers in a drywood termite colony are responsible for foraging for food and maintaining the colony. They are larger than the soldiers and workers in subterranean termite colonies.

Types of Drywood Termites

Drywood termites are a diverse group with several species, each having unique characteristics. Here are some of the notable species:

Western Drywood Termites

The Western Drywood Termite (Incisitermes minor) is the most destructive drywood termite in the United States. It is found in the western states, with the most damage occurring in California, Arizona, and Texas. They infest dry wood in buildings and homes, causing significant damage.

Southeastern Drywood Termites

The Southeastern Drywood Termite (Incisitermes snyderi) is found in the southeastern states and the Caribbean. They infest structural timbers, furniture, and hardwood flooring. Unlike the Western Drywood Termite, they can also infest live trees.

Desert Drywood Termites

The Desert Drywood Termite (Marginitermes hubbardi) is found in desert areas of the Southwest. They infest dry wood in buildings, utility poles, and dying trees. They are less damaging than the Western Drywood Termite but can still cause significant damage if left unchecked.

West Indian Drywood Termites

The West Indian Drywood Termite (Cryptotermes brevis) are a significant pest in the tropics and subtropics and can infest a wide range of hardwoods. Despite it being a foreign species to the US, it can be found in many US states like Florida.

Each of these species has unique behaviors and infestation patterns. For example, the Western Drywood Termite typically infests buildings and homes, causing significant damage. In contrast, the Southeastern Drywood Termite can also infest live trees, and the Desert Drywood Termite is adapted to desert conditions.

Distribution and Habitat

Drywood termites create colonies in wood and occasionally other cellulose material, with no connection to the ground necessary. They like attic wood and need very little moisture to survive. They are capable of causing significant damage to structures, especially in areas with a dry climate.

Drywood Termite Behavior


Drywood termites have unique habits that set them apart from other termite species. They create a series of wood chambers, connected by tunnels with smooth walls, as if sandpapered. This behavior is quite unique to drywood termites and is a clear sign of their infestation.


Drywood termites pose a significant threat to homes and other structures. They are capable of causing extensive damage to structural wood, furniture, and other cellulose-based materials. Termites are estimated to cause over a billion dollars in damage to United States homes each year. Unlike fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, termite damage is seldom covered in homeowner insurance policies.

Drywood Termite Control

How to prent drywood termites from appearing

Preventing a drywood termite infestation involves regular inspections and maintaining a low-moisture environment. Since drywood termites do not require contact with the soil to survive, they can infest any part of a home, from the attic to the basement. Regular inspections by a pest control professional can help detect signs of an infestation early before significant damage can occur.

Drywood termites form new colonies by gaining access to wood through small holes or crevices. To prevent needing a drywood termite treatment, seal all cracks and crevices in a structure. Early detection can also save you a lot of headaches, so be sure to look out for drywood termite droppings and discarded wings.

How to treat a drywood termite infestation

If you suspect a drywood termite infestation, it is essential to seek professional help. A pest control professional can provide a thorough inspection and recommend a tailored treatment plan for your situation. This may include spot treatments, whole structure fumigation, or heat treatments. The chosen method will depend on the extent of the infestation and the location of the termites within the structure.

tBecause drywood termites can quickly overtake your home, it’s essential to act fast if you suspect of an infestation. Schedule annual professional termite inspections for your home to prevent these devastating pests. If you suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest control professional to determine the extent of the problem and develop an appropriate drywood termite treatment plan.


Drywood termites, while less common than subterranean termites, can cause significant damage if left unchecked. Recognizing their unique traits and understanding their behavior can help in the early detection and prevention of infestation. If you suspect a drywood termite infestation, seek professional help to protect your home from potential damage.

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