Tiptoeing through the termites in the springtime


February 16, 2024

Photo: Weber / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Photo: Weber / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Thanks to the seasonal behavior of termites, “swarm season” can feel a bit like Groundhog Day as the stream of nearly identical termite-related service calls fill the daily schedule this time of year. Remember, though, that not all termites are not created equal, and knowing exactly what species you’re up against is essential to developing an effective management strategy.

Many structural termite infestations involve subterranean termites (Reticulitermes spp), which normally live below ground and usually require access to the soil. Control options typically include termiticide baits, wood treatments, or liquid soil termiticides.

But then there’s the Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus and C. gestroi), which can generate large colonies capable of more feeding damage than other species. Formosans also create moisture-holding carton nests in wall voids that allow them to break soil-to-ground contact — and therefore may require additional control measures to resolve.

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

Dr. Michael Bentley, BCE

Other less common, but important termite groups include dampwood (Archotermopsidae) and drywood (Kalotermitidae) termites. Dampwoods have a high moisture requirement and don’t require soil contact. Structural infestations can occur when wood has been saturated from moisture issues such as leaking pipes or damaged gutters. These termites can expand into drier wood once established, however. Resolving a dampwood infestation typically requires correcting the moisture issue in addition to other control measures.

Drywoods have a much lower moisture requirement and develop smaller colonies in comparison to their subterranean termite cousins. Like dampwoods, drywoods do not require soil contact. As result, an entire drywood termite colony may be contained to a single window sill, rafter beam, or even one piece of furniture. Though colonies may be smaller, drywoods may require fumigation or a more localized treatment to resolve the infestation.

About the Author

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Dr. Bentley is director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association. You can reach him at mbentley@pestworld.org.

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