Termites are divided into three groups known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood species. Subterranean termites are appropriately named, as they dwell beneath the ground surface where they feed on cellulose contained within decaying and usually fibrous forms of plant matter, such as twigs and dead tree roots. Subterranean termites often venture above ground when they infest tree stumps, dead trees, other wood sources in contact with the ground, like telephone poles, and of course, structural and finished wood sources on residential properties. In order to avoid the deadly effects of dry outside air, subterranean termites use soil, saliva and feces to construct protective “mud tubes” that allow them to traverse between the soil and above ground structural wood sources.
In order to reach indoor structural wood, subterranean termite workers make mud tubes narrow enough to fit through tiny cracks in concrete and masonry foundations. Unlike soil-dwelling subterranean termites, drywood and dampwood termites only nest and feed within above ground wood sources, and only reproductive swarmers (alates) leave nests in order to establish new colonies in both natural and finished wood sources. Destructive dampwood termites cannot be found in Georgia, but the highly destructive southeastern drywood termite species infest homes frequently throughout the state.
While seven damaging drywood termite species can be found in the US, the southeastern drywood termite is considered to be one of the two major pests of structures, the other being the western drywood termite in the arid southwest. After a male and female pair of southeastern drywood termite swarmers (alates) initiate an infestation either within structural or cosmetic lumber sources, it typically takes around 4 years before the colony matures to the point where it is able to produce its own alates. Mature colonies contain around 3000 individual termites, and infestations are generally difficult to locate. Unlike other drywood termite species that produce massive annual swarms, the southeastern drywood termite’s mating swarms are comprised of only around 12 alates, which may emerge within infested homes during the daytime. However, after around 2 years of colony maturation, southeastern drywood termites begin to push excess excrement out of infested lumber. These small, egg shaped, and very hard fecal pellets are pushed out of small holes that are visible on the surface of infested wood, which can be found anywhere within a home. Pest control professionals look for fecal pellets and exit holes in lumber while inspecting homes.
Were you aware that a non-native drywood termite, the powderpost termite, was recently found in the northern region of Georgia where they were thought to be non-existent?