What Kind Of Termites Do I Have? Identify Drywood Or Subterranean Termite Species
If you never had to deal with termites, you may wonder how exactly they look and whether you may have them in your home without your knowledge. Knowing how termites look and identifying their species can help San Diego homeowners detect termite infestations, preventing them, and making an informed decision on the methods of treatment and control.
While there are 17 different kinds of termites in Southern California, chances are that you may have one of the two most common species in your San Diego home: The drywood or subterranean termite. Almost all termite species live in the dark, therefore they may go unseen for years, happily munching down your house. The only time when you may notice them is while they are swarming, or when you find their characteristic little fecal pellets next to a wall.
Termites swarm in late spring, or late summer to fall. During these seasons, the ‘swarmers’ grow wings and begin swarming out, looking for a new mate and a place to start a new colony. Swarming termites are often confused with flying carpenter ants or fire ants, as all have wings. However, one big difference is their body shape. Termites have a long body without any ‘segments’, while ants have a segmented body with a thin neck and waist. Another difference is their color. While ants are generally black-red or dark brown, subterranean swarmers are dark brown or brown-black, with brown-grayish wings. Drywood swarmers are dark brown with black wings, and have a solid red head and throrax and are bigger than the subterraneans.
Swarming termites have the sole purpose to spread, reproduce and create new colonies. Once they’ve found their mate, they will shed their wings, mate, and start a new colony. If you find wings on your property, it is a likely sign that you just got new unwanted guests. After a while, the female begins laying eggs, and their offspring, the so-called ‘workers’ will grow and start chewing on your wooden structures, converting wood (cellulose) into food.
Western drywood termites are the most common termite species in California. They live strictly in the dark behind your walls, and you will only notice them if there is a small crack and their sand-like fecal pellets fall through. If you have subterranean termites, you won’t find these pellets, but you may see their ‘shelter tubes’. As subterrean termites need regular moisture, they come from the ground up and tend to live in tubes, close to the floor in order to stay in the moist area. This makes it easier to control them as you can shut off their way to the ground by treating the foundation with the proper chemicals.
Drywood termites require a different treatment than subterranean termites. Due to the fact they both live in hardly accessible ‘hidden places’ inside walls and the spreading of their colonies, it takes an experienced termite control expert to ensure that all colonies are found and effectively treated. Check out the photos below to see the difference of subterranean and drywood ‘worker’ termites:
Photo courtesy of: http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/aimg26.html
Drywood termites (left) and subterranean termites (right), (Isoptera: Kalotermitidae), Photo by Drees.