The Western Drywood Termite

The western drywood termite, Incisitermes minor, is California’s second most important termite pest after the western subterranean termite. It is a native insect that has been here millions of years, typically attacking trees along stream washes and arroyos. In California drywood termites are most prevalent inside southern California and the Central Valley but also can be found infesting wood down the coast, in bay areas south of San Francisco, and in the southern California desert. For more information on the biology and distinguishing characteristics of this and other termite species common in California, see Pest Notes: Termites, listed in References.
Because of the difficulty in detecting drywood termites and determining the extent of the damage done, do-it-yourself treatments are not recommended; consult a pest control professional. Over-the-counter products with drywood termites on the label for do-it-yourself enthusiasts do not exist. Except for wood removal, homeowners should seek help from pest control professionals. This publication is intended to provide homeowners with sufficient background information so that they can better discuss treatment options with pest control professionals; it is not intended as a treatment guide.
DETECTION
Drywood termites are secretive insects and are difficult to detect. They live deep inside wood and, except during periods when they swarm or when repair work is being done on infested homes, they are seldom observed. Colonies are little (usually fewer than 1,000 individuals), can exist extensively detached, plus get years to mature. While a owner of a house may originally detect the presence of termites when they swarm or if fecal pellets are discovered, inspecting for drywood termites and determining the amount of an infestation need practice.
The minimum requirement by California state law for drywood termite inspections includes visual searches of accessible places. However, detection of difficult-to-find infestations may require removal of walls, paneling, in addition to stucco as well as the use of ladders and scaffolds. Throughout a visual inspection for drywood termites, inspectors look for feeding damage, shed wings, termite fecal pellets, and kickout holes, which are small holes the size of BB shot through that termites push fecal pellets out of the wood. Fecal pellets, hexagonal in shape, are diagnostic for drywood termites. However, whether the infestation is currently active or what the extent of the infestation is cannot be determined from pellets alone. Cleaning up the fecal pellets around a kickout hole and checking a few days later to see if new pellets have appeared can help to determine if an infestation is active. (Building vibrations/movements may cause some pellets to appear.) If an active infestation of drywood termites is found in your structure, you should have it treated.
Other detection methods include the use of dogs, odor detectors, and feeding-sensitive (acoustic emission) devices, but these are infrequently used. Fiber optics, borescopes, and movement-sensitive devices using microwaves have also been tried, but their reliability has not yet been scientifically tested on drywood termites. Except for feeding-sensitive devices, most detection methods are still considered experimental because adequate research has not been conducted on their effectiveness. Visual searches by inspectors for evidence of termites and damage remain the mainstay of the industry.
ELIMINATING EXISTING INFESTATIONS
All drywood termite control methods can be categorized as either whole-structure or localized. A whole-structure treatment is defined as the simultaneous treatment of all infestations, accessible and inaccessible, in a structure. A localized or spot treatment is more restrictive, often applied to a single board or small group of boards. Homeowners are advised to know the distinction between whole-structure and spot treatments when deciding which method to select because all treatment methods are not equivalent.
Whole-structure treatments have an advantage over spot treatments in that they can eliminate all infestations, even hidden ones. With the uncertainty of current detection methods, particularly when drywall or other wall coverings conceal infestations, there is always some doubt as to the extent of dry-wood termite colony boundaries within homes. Consequently one can never be sure that all infestations have been treated when applying spot treatments.

2 Comments »

  • tabot2 says:

    – She forgot to mnoiten that before laying a poly barrier. You need to make sure you remove any celulose debris, ( Wood, Cardboard, Paper, etc.. ) If you don’t do this then the barrier can just create a safe haven for the termites and before long you have a huge problem. A single termite colony can destroy a solid 1ft of a 2X4 in a single day. Termidor is the best stuff out when used properly and the only way you can get it is being a Certified Operator. So check Kudzo and call a Pro.

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