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Everything to know about drywood termites

Commonly found in areas of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and in the Southeast – from North Carolina through the Gulf Coast – drywood termites can go undetected for years, quietly chewing through one of your most valuable assets, your home.

Unlike subterranean termites, which make their nests in the ground, drywood termites live completely within the wood they infest, making early detection difficult. So, how can you tell if you have drywood termites?

It starts with how these silent destroyers operate. Understanding the biology of termites and what drives them to infest a source, in this case the wood used to build your home, will help with early detection and prevention. If you’re worried about termites or have an immediate need for termite control, please don’t wait. Contact Western Exterminator today to schedule a free termite inspection.

What are drywood termites?

Drywood termites are a species of termites that tend to reside in dry wood and do not need as much water as other termites. Like most termites, drywood termites can be organized in a caste system containing reproductive and worker/soldier castes. Swarms are often seen, indicating an infestation.

Drywood termites are not as destructive as subterranean termites in the nation, but can still do substantial damage. Their colonies are typically found in dry wood, and evidence of an infestation usually includes discarded wings, feces, or frass (piles of sawdust created from their feeding). Like all termites, drywood termites feed on cellulose, which is found in wood. The main difference with this species is that they do not go for soft, moist wood as most termites do. Instead, they eat across the grain of the wood, which can be very dangerous and damaging to structures.

Drywood termite habitat: Where do they live?

Drywood termites are most common in warmer, tropical climates where winters are mild. These termites do not need moist soil or water to survive, unlike other termites. For that reason, they typically target wood that is above-ground, meaning infestations are often in higher levels of structures. They often enter homes through exposed wood or infested wooden furniture brought indoors.

WARNING! Termites can also be transported to new locations if the wood is already infested. Furniture, picture frames, and building materials may harbor active termite colonies.

Drywood termite behavior and how it differs

Subterranean termite species are dependent on a moisture source, such as the water contained in soil. They'll make their way to your home by creating tunnels underground and continuing the journey above ground by means of mud tunnels. Mud tunnels may run along the foundation or walls of your home and are a visible sign of termite activity. Drywood termites will not give us this visible hint, as they will extract all the moisture they need from the wood they digest. Visible signs are often not as apparent until noticeable damage has already occurred.  

Drywood termites will chew through wooden support beams, floors, and walls. Because they have no preference for hard or softwood, they build wider galleries that usually compromise the structure of the wood more than those of subterranean termites, even with larger colonies. This means that a subterranean termite gallery will leave the hardwood quite sound, so the whole wood structure is less compromised, compared to a drywood termite gallery that will destroy the wood entirely until it collapses. And, because they live solely within a wood source, colonies can grow for years undetected, causing a significant amount of structural damage to homes.

These termites do not pose a health risk to humans, nor do they bite. The main danger with drywood termites is the damage they can cause. Their wood-destroying habits can often go on for some time before being discovered. Because of their ability to stay hidden, their many swarmers and workers, and their saw-like jaws, drywood termites can cause incredible amounts of damage to a home.

Signs of drywood termites

drywood termite frass

Drywood termites often swarm after it rains and a rise in temperature occurs. A termite swarm indicates a new colony looking to establish residency nearby. You may spot swarms indoors or outdoors. When seen indoors or near the house structure, you may think they came from outside. However, termites are weak fliers, and more often than not, the source will be inside the structure or very close to it.

Homeowners will often notice small piles of droppings or wings attached to spider webs or in the corners of the area. They may even notice the wood sounding hollow if they probe it. Sometimes it can also be easily broken or perforated.

Wings and droppings are the most common noticeable signs of drywood termites. However, as they live inside the wood, they could be inside your walls or attic without any external signs until the damage is so great that it becomes visible. Although frass-like droppings indicate activity, signs don't always need to be visible for an infestation to be present. Drywood termites may refrain from expelling frass for a time. They may also expel it from a different hole that is not visible.

If you have seen any of these signs, don't waste time. Ask for an inspection as soon as possible as the structure may have a drywood termite infestation.

7 drywood termite prevention tips

There are several things you can do to help prevent drywood termite activity and make your home less enticing to these wood-destroying insects. Here are 7 simple tips from our experts:

  1. Store firewood and scrap wood at least 20 feet away from your home.
  2. Seal all cracks and crevices around the home to prevent termites from gaining access to wood.
  3. Seal or paint any exposed wood that’s weathered or where paint is peeling.
  4. Routinely inspect your home for signs of termites: discarded wings, sawdust-like piles of droppings, and hollow-sounding wood. These are all signs of an infestation.
  5. Pay special attention to window and door frames, trim, eaves, siding, and in the attic.
  6. For any new construction projects, be sure to use treated wood.
  7. Remove any dead trees or stumps from your property.

Professional drywood termite solutions

Western offers expert termite solutions for all types of homes and all stages of termite activity. Whether you’re experiencing an active infestation or looking to prevent future infestations, we have a treatment plan designed just for you.

Western Exterminator specialist installing a termite baiting station

Western’s preventative plan for future infestations

Western’s preventative termite plan offers homeowner’s the ultimate peace of mind. Designed for homes with no termite activity, this proactive method of treatment targets the most susceptible areas of your home such as your attic, crawl space, and exterior, guarding it against hungry termites looking for a new home. Included in your plan, you’ll also benefit from periodic professional termite inspections at no additional charge and a termite warranty to cover future damage and repairs.

Treatment and preventative plan for active infestations

Designed for homes with current termite activity, this plan includes everything in our preventative termite plan, while addressing mild drywood termite activity and preventing further termite intrusion. Focusing on immediate and corrective treatment to halt existing activity in your home’s structure, we apply a liquid treatment to defined areas with termite activity.

Western’s termite warranty*

Enjoy peace of mind knowing that your biggest investment – your home – is protected from termites. You are covered for any future termite damage and repairs including retreatments with our termite warranty. *Limitations apply. See plan for details. Not available in all areas. 

Western: Your local termite control experts since 1921

Western Exterminator has been protecting homes from termites for over 100 years. With the understanding that no two homes are alike, our team of termite control experts will work with you to develop a plan that’s customized specifically to your home. Whether you’re seeking termite treatment for a documented issue, or you’re interested in preventative termite coverage, we’re here to provide you with peace of mind that your home is protected against termites – now and in the future.


Claudio Salem is the Technical Quality & Compliance Assurance Manager for Rentokil Terminix. He is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, having earned his degree from the University of São Paulo USP - São Paulo, Brazil, as well as a Board Certified Entomologist through the Entomological Society of America.

His unique expertise led him to be invited to serve in a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention program known as the CDC Emergency Response Team, which is on-call to respond to vector-borne disease outbreaks both here in the U.S. and in other countries. Salem has done extensive work with mosquitoes and was actively involved in mosquito deterrence programs for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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