Athens, Ga.-based American Pest Control has been serving homes in northeast Georgia since 1971 and is accustomed to treating Eastern subterranean termite (Reticulitermes flavipes) infestations.
When the company’s 2018 Technician of the Year, Andy Deutsch, spotted a drywood termite in the Five Points area of Athens, he knew he had encountered something different.
With the assistance of termite manager and long-time employee, David Butler, and Dr. Brian Forschler of the University of Georgia (UGA) Entomology department, the insect was identified as a West Indian drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis).
“I was absolutely shocked to find the species in this part of Georgia, especially being a structural infestation and not just in a piece of furniture,” says Deutsch.
According to the National Pest Management Association, drywood termites can chew through support beams, floors and walls, causing expensive home repairs. In northeast Georgia, home damage is usually caused by Eastern subterranean termites, not drywood. West Indian drywood termites are usually seen along coasts and can be transported in furniture and other timbers.
“Somebody brought in a piece of furniture or a piece of artwork, had it sitting in the house, and had a swarm from that structure,” says Dr. Brian Forschler, principal investigator for the UGA Household and Structural Entomology Research Program. “That’s the only way it could have gotten started.”
According to American Pest Control, control measures for Eastern subterranean termite infestations include:
- Storing firewood and other wood storage items 20 feet or more away from the structure.
- Reducing moisture content in a crawl space by having a moisture barrier installed.
- Eliminating wood to earth contact on deck posts, stairs and other wooden structures attached to the home by insulating points of the structure that touch the ground with a concrete barrier.
- Checking for evidence of pest activity when introducing furniture or other wooden items to the home.
Control measures differ for West Indian drywood termites.
“Eastern subterranean termites can be addressed by treating the soil because they have to return to the earth,” explains Deutsch. “Drywood termites do not. In some circumstances you can use a foam treatment in the voids for drywood termites, but in a worse case scenario, the home would require fumigation.”
Editor’s note: For more on termites, watch this video with PMP columnist Dr. Jim Fredericks, VP of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association, as he shares the challenges termite inspectors face when a crawlspace or basement has spray foam insulation.