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The word often strikes fear into the heart of any homeowner. A tent full of poison over their home? Nasty little creatures gnawing away in the night?

Drywood termites are undoubtedly unpleasant to think about, and can become a genuine problem for homeowners. The good news is that they can be easily prevented if you’re empowered with the right knowledge. Let’s look at a couple of things you can do to identify, prevent, and treat drywood termites.

What do they look like?

Although several species of drywood termites exist in Florida, all are similar in appearance. The workers are white and are seldom seen, as they spend their entire lives inside the galleries of infested wood. In contrast, visible drywood termites are “swarmers,” and appear in east central Florida between May and September.

What is the difference between drywood termites and subterranean termites?

Drywood termites are frequently confused with two other similar pests: ants and subterranean termites.

Subterranean termites and drywood termites both have:

  • two pairs of wings, of equal length
  • a capsule-shaped body divided into two segments.

Drywood termites, however, are generally brown in color. If viewed closely, the body segment immediately behind the head is the same width as its head. It’s a small difference that can be tough to identify without professional assistance from a trusted pest control provider. (If you’re not sure, text a picture to us at (386) 405‑2271, and we’ll be happy to help!)

You may also encounter swarming ants during termite swarming season. It’s a little bit easier to tell the difference between these guys and drywood termites. The ants have only one pair of wings, and the three-part body shape includes narrower areas that make it look as if the creature has a “neck” and “waist.” Termites, on the other hand, have a two-part body, appearing as just a head and body.

How do I know if my house has drywood termites?

Often the first clue of a drywood termite infestation is the presence of termite swarmers. Drywood termites swarm in the early evening and will fly towards light. As a result, they are attracted to lamps, televisions, computer screens, etc. If you don’t spot them as they’re flying, you may notice wings near these areas the next morning, as they shed their wings soon after alighting on their target.

Generally, the second sign of a drywood termite problem is fecal pellets–called frass–that may appear on the floor or windowsills. These small pellets are uniform in size but may vary in color, sometimes resembling salt and pepper. Closer observation may reveal a tiny hole in the wall or ceiling above the pellets. Drywood termites can also infest furniture, so pellets may appear in drawers and cabinets.

How do I get rid of drywood termites?

Drywood termites can sometimes be “spot treated” if discovered early. Spot treatments vary, but include:

  • removing infested wood
  • liquid treatments on unpainted wood
  • foam treatments
  • dry powder treatments

The first two are the most common treatments for do-it-yourself homeowners. Foam and dry powder treatments require special equipment and are usually reserved for professionals. In the case of large infestations, we typically recommend tent fumigation of the structure.

How can I prevent drywood termites?

  • Regular home maintenance is the best prevention for drywood termites. It is easiest for drywood termites to infest unpainted wood, so merely keeping your home painted is a great first step.
  • Attic spaces are also a perfect environment for drywood termites, so it’s a good idea to deter them from entering through soffits. Soffits are the eaves of your home that allow air to pass into the attic space for ventilation. Be sure your soffits are well maintained and that perforations are small enough to keep termites out. Specifically, these perforations should not be much larger than the size of those seen in a window screen.
  • Remembering that drywood termites swarm towards light, it’s essential to turn off porch lights and security lights during swarming season. It’s also a good idea to keep curtains closed. If exterior lights are required, use yellow “bug lights” when possible. These lights are available at most hardware stores or garden centers.

Lastly, a note of caution…

Beware of the pest control company offering treatment for your attic to prevent drywood termites. This is both costly and mostly ineffective. It does little to protect your attic and nothing to prevent drywood termites from infesting the rest of your home. In my opinion, companies offering these services give the pest control industry a bad reputation, because many homeowners don’t realize their options are limited to spot treatments–and not fumigations as they are often led to believe.

Of course, if you’re not sure if you have drywood termites, feel free to give us a call at 386-673-1557. We’re happy to come out and take a look and let you know what solutions may be best for your situation.

Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control