Some Interesting Facts About Dampwood Termites

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There are different threats which can seriously damage wood but termites seem to be one of the most dangerous.

Termites bring incredible losses that may reach thousands of dollars annually.

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Where dampwood termites live?

You will never see dampwood termites in the ground as they live only in wood. They get inside “healthy” wood by air and destroy wood even if there is too much moisture. Though dampwood termites damage wood a lot they are not so widely spread as other types.

Basically they live in humid tropics zone, the Southwest of the U.S. and along the Pacific Coast.

The pest is attracted to moisture, very wet substructure areas and to wood that is in contact with soil.

This species works and lives under houses, below sinks, tubs and toilets or wherever there might be water intrusion or conditions conducive to the infestation.

Photo 2Even though these termites are less destructive then subterranean termites, but still they “drill” supporting building parts what may cause serious problems for householders.

Learn more about subterranean termites: signs of their activity; best methods of treatment and DIY methods. Eastern subterranean termites and their tunnels and tubes with photo.

Luckily, the same ways which are used for wood decay protection can be used as dampwood termites’ preventive actions.

Dampwood termites get inside through cracks or holes and channels which were made by bugs.

Wood condition (its softness and decay level) is also very important for these termites.

Their nests appear and get bigger due to their surrounding with food. The walls inside of their nests dampwood termites cover with their frass.

Termites’ types

Dampwood termites (termopsidae) can be divided into 5 classes and 30 species. Zootermopsis and neotermes are scientific names for those which are widely spread.

Here are some popular types of dampwood termites: desert, florida, Nevada and pacific dampwood termites. These termites prefer living in wet wood which is suffering from decay.

So, wet wood or the one which is in contact with soil will be a perfect place for future termopsidae nest. Unlike drywood termites, dampwood termites can’t live in drying up timber; their colonies are not too big as well.

There are two types of dampwood termites: swarmers (or alates) and soldiers. Other termites’ types usually have one more types: workers. Termopsidae has no real workers.

Workers’ functions are performed by pseudergates. Basically pseudergate is an elder nymph. Immature termite can act as a worker for quite a long time without changing its appearance.

Soldiers usually are a little bit smaller (they are about 20 mm) and have large head with mandibles.

Swarmers (or alates) are the only termites that have wings. Basically they exist for reproductive functions. They always have two pairs of wings which are almost close to being the same in length.

Reproductives perform king and queen functions in the nest. Dampwood swarmers look bigger comparing with any other termites’ types and can reach 25 mm long.


What does damp wood termites look like, see pictures below:

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Mating season

The most important way of termites’ copulation is laying eggs. Every year during the same period of time new swarmers fly out of their nests.

Mating season may last from May till September. Usually it depends on rainy season because weather creates perfect living conditions.

During mating season there are many insect eaters like different birds, mammals, reptiles, etc. In Africa and Australia even people are among these hunters; as swarmers are believed to be valuable food (they belong to “high-fat” insects).

Swarmers usually do not fly too far. After landing they shed their wings and start looking for a partner. Female alates are more active than their male ‘husbands”.

Male swarmer connects with his female partner and they start looking for a place for a new nest. Dampwood termites’ king and queen build their royal cell in the wood: as while as eating it they can produce special secretion which their nymphs will eat.

Their first copulation happens only in the nest. Sometime after that the queen lays it first eggs. During the first year the number of eggs is small. The first soldier appears after 1 year.

Slowly the size of the colony grows and when pseudergate number reaches 30-50, the queen and the king can rely on colony and stop feeding themselves. A couple of years after the colony can raise new swarmers. In tropical forests termites grow faster.

Notice! Dampwood termites may live for 10 years and even longer.

How to identify termites’ attack?

Photo 9Sometimes dampwood termites do not have contact with soil.

Unlike subterranean termites dampwood termites do not make any tunnels or channels.

They prefer eating across the grain, so damaged wood usually looks clean.

In this case it may be a little hard to identify whether you have termites or not. So, there are some more factors you can pay your attention to.

Attention! Always pay attention to shed wings and dead swarmers. Most probably your house was detected as a place for future nest.

In order to protect their nest from extra air sometimes dampwood termites use their frass. So, usually termites’ frass provides unmistakable evidence of their activity.

If wood is dry enough, fecal will fall to the bottom of the gallery. Otherwise it will stick to the sides of their galleries.

Preventive actions

Getting rid of termites and their swarmers can be hard, so, if it is possible, try to do some preventive actions against their appearance.
  1. If you are building a house, try to do it with high foundation. Wooden constructions shouldn’t be in contact with the ground: by doing this you will avoid extra wet conditions for the wood.
  2. Try to get rid of wet ground and moisture around your house.
  3. If you have a wooden fence, make sure it doesn’t have any contact with the ground. It will be also a good idea to make a cement or stone base for it.
  4. Make sure your drains work properly and carry off rainwater.
  5. Make ventilation system for your house.
  6. You should know that dampwood termites do not like cedar, mahogany and some other types of wood.
  7. There are special remedies to keep your timber dry.
  8. Keep firewood away from the house.

It will be also a good idea to check your house for termites with professionals annually.

Termite control

Photo 10Many termites make special sound which signalizes the threat to their nest.

Dampwood termite, for example, makes 24 beats per second with its head making a sound with 1000 hz frequency.

It has been noticed that you will never see zootermopsis (quite common pests from the U.S.) in places where electric transformers, electric motors and other electric machinery have been installed.

The only thing needed is low-frequency vibration. Termites don’t like feeling danger all the time.

How to get rid of dampwood termites?

Here you can learn more information about effective treatment method called tenting (fumigation): dangers for termites, preparing for fumigation and cleaning after, how long does this procedure last?

If you see “infected” wood, that means that the lumber was wet and already in trouble even before the termites moved in. Anytime that damp wood termites are in residence at a home, there is an underlying moisture problem. To eradicate dampwood termites no chemical treatment is required.

Advice! Simply locate and eliminate any sources of moisture.

Also eliminate wood to earth contact and the adverse conditions that are conducive to the infestation. Finally hire a qualified contractor to locate any damaged lumber and replace it with sound material.

Useful articles

If you interested in more information of termites we recommend you to read the following articles:

Helpful video

Watch short video below about damp wood termites:


Remember, that sometimes insecticides may be still needed. So in order to have no problems with termites or their future appearance make sure you got a professional advice. Call Pest Company and find their recommendations for your area.

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