Drywood Termites vs

Drywood Termites vs. Subterranean Termites – Know Your Enemy

Termites are bad news for your home no matter what type. Learn the differences between the species, and you can do everything in your power to prevent these invaders from taking a bite out of your investment. Here’s a drywood termites vs. subterranean termites checklist to help you identify the enemy:

How are drywood vs. subterranean termites’ wings different?

Winged termites are called alates. Subterranean alates have one single thick, dark vein that runs parallel to the top of the wing. Drywood termites have a complex system of veins, usually at least three or four in each wing. Most termites shed their wings within minutes of landing. This is often the only evidence they leave behind.

Are there any differences in their nesting habits?

An important difference between the two is that subterranean termites nest in the ground, while drywood termites nest inside the wood they are infesting. This leads to varying points of attack on your property. Subterranean termites make mud tubes to tunnel through the ground and invade your home. These tubes protect them from predators and dehydration. Drywood termites don’t dig mud tubes, needing zero contact with soil. They infest your home by air and require less moisture (which is why they don’t need soil or the mud tubes).

Can termite excrement help you tell them apart?

Excrement is one of the most common secondary signs of any pest infestation. Each species of termite has different eating and traveling habits, which you can detect in the ‟land mines” they leave behind on the battlefield. Subterranean termites leave behind a non-ridged, cardboard-like excrement called a ‟carton,” which is used as lining in mud tubes. Drywood termites create ‟kick-out” holes to push their excrement through the wood. This leads to their distinctive six-sided ‟frass,” which resembles fine grains of sand or salt and pepper gathering in small piles on the floor.

What about their feeding patterns?

Subterranean termites are voracious feeders but they are somewhat picky. They only chew on the softest part of the wood found between the grains. Drywood termites eat across the grains, leaving galleries that don’t follow the grain of the wood. If you have neat, lined patterns of destruction that appears to include mud or dirt, subterranean termites are likely the culprit. Erratic, smooth galleries that contain fecal pellets, are likely the work of an army of drywood termites.

In the end, this conflict won’t really come down to subterranean termites vs. drywood termites. It boils down to termites vs. your home and the relentlessness of your counterattack. Unfortunately, that’s not a battle you’ll ever win on your own. Call Terminix® and make sure your home doesn’t become just another casualty in the war against termites.


Overview of Termites

There are three major groups of termites which occur in the United States: dry wood, subterranean and Formosan. Termites are identified by the appearance of the swarmers, their damage, and the droppings they leave behind.

The two most common types of termites are “drywood” and “ground,” or subterranean termites. Subterranean termites cause about 95% of the termite-related damage found in the United States. Both types of termites eat cellulose for nutrition. Cellulose is found in wood and wood products.

Drywood termites are found in a narrow geographic band that extends from the coastal Carolinas along the southernmost borders of the U.S, all the way to California. Dampwood termites are common to the Pacific Northwest.

Termites are the major wood-destroying structural pests in the southern United States. According to some estimates, over $2 billion is spent annually controlling or preventing termite infestations.

Termites have become a threat in every region in the US, with centrally heated homes. There may be an average of 13 to 14 subterranean termite colonies per acre. A typical home may easily have three to four colonies situated under or around it, with as many as 1,000,000 subterranean termites per colony.

Termites have been able to survive for over 250 million years. The highly structured nature of the colonies allows termites to adapt more to ever-changing environments.

Your home is naturally close to termite colonies. Foundations are usually built above the water table, and below the frost line, where termites typically live.

Termites don’t distinguish between the wood in your home and the wood in the forest to satisfy their nutritional needs.

Termites can not digest the wood directly. The protozoa that live in their gut break down the cellulose into simpler compounds for the termites to absorb.

Concrete slab and basement foundations are some of the most susceptible types of construction. Termites only need a crack of one-sixty-fourth inch in the slab floor to gain entrance into your home.

Termites can travel up to 130 feet from the colony — and once they discover a food source, they leave a “chemical trail” for others to follow.

Termites work 24 hours a day. “Worker” termites bring food to the colony through tunnels, without ever resting.

Termites need moisture to survive and will die if exposed to sunlight or open air for more than a few minutes. Their tunnels protect them from the elements. High moisture areas like basements and crawl spaces are very attractive to termites and can serve as starting points for an infestation. Once in, termites can infest virtually any part of your home — wood trim, siding, wallboard, even picture frames.

Subterranean Termites and Drywood Termites – A Quick Comparison

Food and Moisture: Need a great deal of moisture such as from soil, and damp wood, Cellulose (from wood) is their diet.

Habitat: Usually they live in the soil, but can be above ground if enough moisture is present. They have large colonies.

Evidence of Activity: Protective mud tubes ascending from the ground to the structure or protruding from walls, etc. (See link for Pictures)

Termite swarming within the structure

Prevention: Treat the soil before construction-pretreat with an termiticide. For more information go to Chemical soil treatments.

A termite bait station monitoring system to monitor termite activity and bait placements after detection.

Regular inspections by a pest control company or yourself if qualified.

Control Measures: With current activity use a baiting program or a termite barrier treatment. Continue monitoring with the use of bait stations or regular inspections.

Food and Moisture: Moisture requirements are minimal. Cellulose(from wood) is their diet.

Habitat: They live within the wood, no soil contact required to keep moist. Colony size is small.

Evidence of Activity: Their fecal material looks “sand like”. Kick-out holes on the walls, ceilings or wood.

Prevention: Use treated lumber during construction.

Coat any untreated wood or exposed wood with Timbor or Boracare

Control Measures: For complete treatment: Tent fumigation.

For spot treatments:
Locate kick out holes.
Lightly puncture hole to inject Drione Dust or an termite foam like Premise Foam

See Drywood Termites for recommended procedures.

Do I have Ants or Termites

Drawing- a courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Do I have ants or termites? This can be a very troublesome question. Some of the flying winged ants can resemble the winged-swarming termite. Here are some ways do identify the difference between the physical resemblance.

While both species have four wings, the termite wings are all the same size and the ant wings have noticeably larger wings in the front as compared to the hind pair. Termites have an almost straight antennae; the ants antennae are elbowed. Termite wings are twice as long as the body. Ants appear distinctly segmented, because of their thin-waisted appearance. Termites have a broad-waisted appearance.


Carpenter ants are black or brown and measure up to 1″ in length. They are often confused with termites. Unlike termites, they have pinched waists and elbowed antennae. Termites have straight bodies and antennae. As with termites, there is a winged version too.

Carpenter ants can do significant structural damage, but are more a nuisance than a structural problem.

There are several ways to recognize a carpenter ant infestation:

Swarmers: Winged form of the carpenter ant in a great number. Sawdust: If you see sawdust(frass) raining from your ceiling or any indoor cracks. If you see more than ten ants a day in any room other than the kitchen. If you see ants in your home and the ground outside is frozen. Crunching Noise: If you hear munching, rustling or crunching noise coming from within a window sill, wall or ceiling. For further information on carpenter ants go to


Drywood Termites

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Cryptotermes spp . and Incisitermes spp.


What do Drywood Termites Look Like?
There are three distinct groups into which termites are divided: subterranean, drywood, and dampwood.

Since the worker termites in these groups more or less look the same, the appearance of the reproductive caste (alates) and soldiers is important.

Alates, or swarmers, have two sets of wings. The front set of wings has a pattern of three or more heavy, well-pigmented veins in the outer part of that front wing. Also, swarmers shed their wings very quickly after swarming, so most all dead swarmer bodies do not have attached wings. This is a good characteristic to distinguish drywood termite swarms from subterranean termite swarms since subterranean swarmers will consist of dead swarmers with and without attached wings. Swarmers can be up to 12 mm long.

Drywood termite soldiers have large mandibles (mouthparts) with teeth and their pronotum is as wide, or wider, than the head. Also, most drywood termite soldiers and workers are larger than the soldiers and workers in subterranean termite colonies.

How D >Drywood termites get all the moisture they need to survive and develop from humidity in the air and moisture they get from consuming the wood they eat. As a result, the drywood termites can survive without living in soil and do not construct their nests in the ground, but instead construct their nests in the dry, above ground wood they infest. The pests enter homes through exposed wood or infested items like wooden furniture.

How Serious Are Drywood Termites?

Infestations can be limited to one area of the house or can be widespread. Damage is often extensive, as these pests will chew tunnels inside wooden beams or other wooden objects, weakening them from the inside. Home repairs for drywood termite damage may be costly and involve the use of house fumigation procedures.

How Do I Get R > What Orkin Does
The Orkin Man™ is trained to help manage termites. Since every home or property is different, the Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Keeping termites out of your home is an ongoing process, not a one-time treatment. Orkin’s exclusive A.I.M. solution is a continuing cycle of three critical steps—Assess, Implement and Monitor.

The Orkin Man™ can provide the right solution to keep termites in their place. out of your home.

Signs of a Drywood Termite Infestation

When a drywood termite colony is mature, swarms of winged male and female reproductive insects are produced. These reproductive termites fly out of their colony to create new colonies after mating. Warm temperatures and heavy rains instigate swarms.

Drywood termites extract as much water as possible from the feces to conserve it. The result are very distinct fecal pellets called frass. They are a hexagonal and all are a similar size of 1 mm long. The termites kick them out of their tunnel. Appearance of mounds of these pellets indicate activity. It is important to note that pellets can remain almost indefinitely from a dead colony and may mislead a homeowner that it is current activity. Contact a termite control professional to confirm current activity.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Where do they live?

Create colonies in wood and occasionally other cellulose material, with no connection to the ground necessary; often found in attic wood; need very little moisture.


Nymphs pass through four to seven instars before reaching adulthood; sexual forms eventually swarm to form new colonies.

More Information

It is estimated that termites cause over a billion dollars in damage to United States homes each year. Unlike fires, hurricanes and tornadoes, termite damage is seldom covered in homeowner insurance policies. The dangers of termite infestation are also underpublicized, leading most homeowners to believe that no preventive measures are necessary.

However, annual inspections are an effective means of preventing major damage to your home. There are two major families of termite present in North America: subterranean and drywood termites. Both species feed on cellulose material, including books, dried plants and furniture, as well structural wood. While subterranean termites burrow underground, drywood termites do not need the soil. After a colony of drywood termites has gained entrance to a home, they are capable of dispersing widely throughout many rooms and floors.

Although drywood termites are far less common than subterranean termites and are found primarily in coastal, southern states and the Southwestern states, drywood termite damage is substantial. Drywood termite infestations are identifiable by piles of fecal pellets. These fecal pellets are often first noticed in places like windowsills. If you find piles of tiny pellets in your home, it could be a sign of a drywood termite infestation. A trained pest control professional can provide a thorough inspection.

Termite Control

Learn the signs to look for to determine if you might have a termite infestation.

Termites cost Americans more than $5 billion in damage each year and most insurance plans don’t cover the damage.

We’ll determine whether you actually have termites, then discuss a treatment plan including financing that works for you.

Learn what to expect from your Orkin Man and the AIM process.


Drywood Termites

( Family Kalotermit >


SIZE: Drywood termites are different sizes depending on their caste. Soldiers are typically three-eighths of an inch long. Reproductives (both male and female) measure one-half of an inch in length.

COLOR: A drywood termite is usually pale brown, though it can vary between dark brown and light, yellowish-tan. Alates, or winged termites, have wings that can be clear or smokey gray in color.

BEHAVIOR: As with other species of termites, drywood termites are organized in a caste system. Once a queen finds a good spot for a colony (often in the rafters of a home), she chooses a mate (or king) and begins laying eggs. The eggs hatch and join the worker caste that eats (and damages) wood and cares for the rest of the colony. As the termite colony ages, some of the termites develop into reproductive or soldier castes. Reproductive termites will grow wings, swarm and go off to form new colonies. Soldier termites protect the established colony from ants, other termites and various threats.

Like other species of termites, this species eats cellulose, which is found in wood and other plants. This is what makes wooden structures so appealing to them and why they are found in homes, fences and trees. However, drywood termites eat across the grain which destroys both the soft springwood growth and the harder summerwood growth. Most subterranean termites avoid the harder layers of wood, eating only the softer layers. Because they eat across the grain, the tunneling can lead to a building or tree collapsing if the colony’s network of tunnels grows too extensive.

In the United States, drywood termites can be found in a narrow strip that runs roughly from Florida to California − warm to tropical climates where wooden structures are plentiful and winters are not severe.

A drywood termite likes to eat. And unlike its subterranean counterparts, it does not need moist soil or water nearby in order to thrive. Because they don’t need water, these termites are often found in dry wood above ground level. The wood they eat provides the moisture they need to survive, according to the AgriLifeExtension of the Texas A&M System.

Tips for Control

Seeing a swarm of reproductive termites, which emerge from small holes in the wood, is a common sign of an infestation, according to the AgriLifeExtension at Texas A&M University.Other signs include blistering of the wood surface, because the termites tunnel too close to the surface, and pellets. Drywood termite pellets are usually the color of the wood they are eating. They are smaller than grains of rice and pile up around damaged wood. Pellets are also commonly found inside tunnels.

To control drywood termites, a pest management professional is needed. To reduce your home’s attractiveness to termites, you should:

Keep firewood and other lumber away from your home’s foundation.

Place fitted, type 20 mesh screen on all doors, windows, vents, openings, etc., especially ones that lead to attics and crawl spaces.

Seal up any unfinished wood in, on and around your home. You can use paint, varnish or sealant, but make sure the coats are even and any nail holes or other cracks are sealed as well.

What Happens During A Free Terminix® Termite Home Inspection?


15 Surprising Things Termites Eat (And Don’t Eat)

Curious to know what termites like to eat?

Well you’re in for a treat because we break down everything you need to know about termites and their dietary habits!

From concrete to plywood, what WON’T a termite chomp on?

Termites and Their Eating Habits

Have you ever noticed that you only seem to see termites infesting wooden structures?

Why is that? Do they eat anything else?

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your termite problem?

Click here to check out our exterminator search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) exterminators in your local area.

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Why Do Termites Like Wood?

Studies of the gut of a termite have been performed on a microscopic level to reveal something unexpected: these pests actually have bacterial protozoa living in their stomachs, digesting their food for them.

These protozoa break down cellulose, a biological compound found in wood, and create fuel from this unlikely resource. Because cellulose is found most abundantly in wood and tree roots, termites gravitate toward it.

Check out this video to learn more about WHY termites like wood!

Will Termites Eat Concrete?

Termites will NOT eat through concrete.

However, because termites will crawl through pre-made cracks in concrete structures and surfaces in search of wood, many people will fall to the misconception that the termites themselves have created the cracks.

Will Termites Eat Plastic?

While termites only feed on items with a cellulose compound, it’s not uncommon for termites to use their serrated jaws to chew through plastic barriers. When it comes to wood, termites will do whatever they can to gnaw through blockades.

The termites aren’t eating the plastic, however. This will not give them sustenance; they are using their jaws more as a weapon than as a vehicle for food.

What Wood Will A Termite Eat?

Okay, so termites are really only in search of cellulose, which is found primarily in wood.

But is all wood created equal to termites? Keep reading to find out.

Will Termites Eat Cedar?

These pests will stay away from cedar at first, however, this won’t always be the case. Over time, the wood will begin to break down and the resinous​​​​ decay will be attractive to termites.

Will Termites Eat Bamboo?

While bamboo is often eaten by pests, it’s not by termites.

The most common insect feeding off of this unique type of wood is the Bostrichid powerpost beetle, which feeds on different types of hard and soft wood.

Will Termites Eat Redwood?

Redwood is another type of wood that’s a natural deterrent for termites.

In the wild, redwood acts as treated wood does in warding off worker termites seeking food for the colony. However, as time wears on, the wood gets worn out. Its resin seeps into the ground, luring termites to feast.

Do Termites Eat Building Supplies?

If you’re in the process of building a home, shed, garage, or any other structure, you’re going to want to use the right materials upfront.

To prevent termite infestation, read below about how likely termites are to chow down on your different supplies.

Will Termites Eat Pressure Treated Lumber ?

The answer to this is a solid no.

Pressure treatment of lumber with chemicals is the number-one step taken against termites. The wood is packed with a preserving agent to stop decay as well as fill the wood with a chemical compound which acts as a blockade against termites. Normally, this is the wood that makes direct contact with the ground, so that when termites encounter the lumber, they’ll pass it right by.

Will Termites Eat Plywood?

This answer depends on whether the plywood has been pressure-treated or not.

Plywood is composed of several cuts of wood glued together, which contains cellulose. Normally, termites will find this cellulose in plywood, so they’ll eat it. However, with a pressure treatment, the termites will no longer be able to sniff out their favorite food.

Will Termites Eat OSB?

Oriented strand board (OSB) is made of wood, but it is cement-bonded for extra durability. For this reason, termites aren’t likely to eat it.

The presence of the cement works to deter termites from the cellulose in the wood chips which make up the board, but also prevents decay. These two factors significantly decrease the likelihood that termites will eat OSB.

Will Termites Eat Sheetrock?

The paper which lines the front of a sheetrock wall is comprised of cellulose, so it’s a nice appetizer for termites. While they don’t like to eat the actual sheetrock itself, they’ll begin to eat the outer layer and search inside for more cellulose.

Also, the walls behind the sheetrock layer in a home or a garage are primarily made of wood, so it’s not unlikely that a termite will keep journeying straight through the sheetrock to find even more cellulose.

Will Termites Eat Particle Board?

Because particle board is made up of several different types of wood (chips, sawdust, waste materials), termites LOVE to eat particle board.

Another major attractant of termites to particle board is its ability to swell with moisture. Because some termites love dampened wood, wet particle board is like serving termites their favorite food on a silver platter.

Termites and Their Diet Outside!

What do termites eat in the wild?

Do you have plants in your yard that could be harboring termite colonies without your knowledge?

Read on for more info.

Will Termites Eat Live Trees?

Normally, live trees and bushes are not optimal sources of food for termites, as these insects feed on dead and decaying cellulose.

However, Formosan Subterranean termites can take over some species of live trees, burrowing into the centers and making themselves at home inside.

Unless the tree starts to decay, you should be okay.

Will Termites Eat Cypress?

Cypress is another type of wood (along with cedar and redwood) which is naturally decay-resistant during its lifespan.

However, once the tree dies, it will eventually break down. Also, the presence of moisture within the tree’s trunk, branches, and roots can lead termites to a cypress tree.

Will Termites Eat Dry Wood?

The answer to this question, unfortunately, is yes.

There’s a species of termite which feeds exclusively on dry, smooth wood such as hardwood floors, banisters, baseboards, and even furniture. The tunnels made by the termites’ chewing are smooth and finished, as the drywood termites don’t have the same serrated, jagged jaw that the dampwood termites have.

Will Termites Eat Painted Wood?

Here’s some good news for all homeowners: termites won’t eat through paint!

However, whether or not a termite colony will make its way into your wood depends on how well the wood was painted. If the pieces of wood inside the ground are bare, then this is a surefire way for termites to make their way inside the wooden structure.

Do yourself a favor and leave no spot unpainted.

Will Termites Eat Poplar Wood?

Poplar wood is defined at utilitarian, working wood. It can be a blend of a few different types of wood, all with different levels of resistance to termites.

Each kind of wood has cellulose, which will always be what a colony of termites is after. However, some poplar wood may be stronger at protecting against termites if made from certain naturally-resistant trees like cypress, redwood, and cedar.

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your termite problem?

Click here to check out our exterminator search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) exterminators in your local area.

(Process takes about 30 seconds)

Termite Diet Final Thoughts

If there’s one thing to remember about a termite’s dietary habits, it’s that these insects will always feast on cellulose and decaying wood.

Any item or particle made up of cellulose is prime cuisine for a termite. This includes nearly every type of wood, especially those which swell with moisture.

Steps can be taken, however, to protect wood against termite infestation such as pressure treatment, concrete reinforcement, and sealant coats.

By knowing the prime attractant for termites, you can better protect against an infestation in the future.

Other Termite Guides

Curious about other termite related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.


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