Dampwood Termites

Dampwood Termites Scientific Name: Zootermopsis augusticollis or Zootermopsis nevadenses

Dampwood Termite Facts

Although considered slightly less damaging than their cousins, the drywood termites, dampwood termites still pose a pest problem especially in the Pacific coast states.

  • As the name suggests, the dampwood termite stays clear of overly dry areas and thrives on already-decaying wood or living organisms that are saturated with moisture.
  • The dampwood termite is separated into three classes (four including the queen)
    • Reproductives – A winged dampwood termite that is responsible for breeding more dampwood termites every season.
    • Soldiers – The largest of the classes, this class can reach up to 1 inch in length and is the dampwood termite responsible for the defense of the tunnels and colony. Dark red in color on their back and tan on the stomach; the soldiers have abnormally large heads and pincers (take about 1/3 of their body).
    • Nymphs – Although these are the smallest of the dampwood termites (about ½ inch), the nymphs (also known as workers) do the majority of the tunneling. A white/cream color.
    • Queen – Will reproduce up to 12 in a batch once per year.
  • Colonies can reach up to 4000 members.
  • Closest relative is the cockroach.
  • Although there can be various species of the dampwood termite, all have been known to come in swarms when forming a new nest.

Dampwood Termite Habitat

The high precipitation levels of the Pacific Northwest provides an ideal home for the dampwood termite; ranging from Northern California up through Washington and Oregon, the termite can venture as far as Montana. Different species of the dampwood termite have also been sited in the Southwestern part of the U.S. where there is warm humidity. Unlike drywood termites, the dampwood species can serve a useful function in the right habitat. When trees or shrubs naturally die and start to decay the dampwood termites can speed up the process and deposit nutrients into the soil at a quicker pace. Unfortunately, the dampwood termite is not contained to forests and decaying trees. Drawn to any location that provides ample moisture, these termites are perfectly content to invade wet wood or soil piles close to homes and even make nests in wet foundations and attics.

Dampwood Termites as Pests

When the dampwood termites begin to feed on wood near or on your home they can cause serious financial and aesthetic issues. Due to their love of moisture, the termites can be difficult to detect, as they will quickly cover any tracks in an effort to lock in humidity. When searching for evidence of damage keep in mind that these particular termites will eat opposite the grain of the wood. You may need chip off the outer potion of a tree or foundation to catch a glimpse of these pests.

Once the colony creates a new nest they will feed throughout the spring and summer, moving from one area to another. This practice not only causes wide spread damage, but can result in harmful bacteria being spread from tree to tree. These pests, while they prefer decaying plants, are not picky and will gladly make their new home in a leaky roof or a foundation that has a plumbing problem. Starting at the foundation and moving upwards, the dampwood termites create a series of chambers and tunnels that can completely deteriorate an area before they move on to their next victim.

Dampwood Termite Control

The Pacific Northwest is such that it is difficult to keep anything dry for very long; that is why it is so critical that every preventative method is taken to ensure the least amount of damage.

  • Be mindful of signs: Know what to look for as termite evidence. Such termite signs could include clustering of dead insects or piles of sawdust.
  • Remove Temptations: Distance any dampwood termite temptations from your house.
    • If you keep piles of debris, soil or wood that could potentially become wet, then remove from the property or place several feet away from your house foundation.
    • Get rid of any vegetation that meets the foundation of your house. It is still fine to have trees and shrubbery, but place it at least one foot away from the foundation with concrete in between.
    • Keep an eye out for leaks (holes in the roof, plumbing, cracks in the wall). Fix as soon as you notice these – do not leave them to get bigger.
    • If there is any rotting or dead trees, remove them immediately as these could be the biggest contributing factor to a dampwood termite infestation.
  • Heat Methods: If you feel that your house does have a serious dampwood termite problem, there is a non-chemical method that is a bit expensive, but fairly effective. Once it has been determined that the source of the termites is located above ground level (this method is not possible at soil level), then professionals will create a heat tent. When temperatures reach over 120 degrees the heat will be held for less than a day. This will effectively eradicate the dampwood termites in your home.