Drywood Termite


The drywood termite lives up to its common name by inhabiting dry, dead wood. Often found in furniture and sometimes in structural supports, drywood termites form colonies that mature slowly and remain smaller in size than the colonies of other termite species.

The pests infest homes by accessing various entry points, including attics and crawlspaces, cracks in window panes and door frames, soffits, and even knots in exterior siding.


What Do They Look Like?

drywood termite
drywood termites in wood

Including the wings, drywood termites can reach lengths of up to 1/2 inches.

The head and thorax generally appear orange to brown in color, while the abdomen is dark brown or black.

Alates, which form the winged reproductive caste of termites, possess smoke-like tinted wings with dark veins, while members of the soldier caste have large mandibles that they use to protect the nest. Drywood termites lack a true worker caste; the equivalents are instead called pseudergates, which literally means “false workers.” This caste lacks wings but can molt into any other caste, including alates.

Geographic Range

Drywood Termites are not nearly as common in the United States as are the dreaded Subterranean Termites. There are several different species of Drywood Termites, and they occur primarily in the warmer areas of the country, throughout much of California and Arizona, down into Mexico, as well as Hawaii, the Gulf states, and along the east coast. Florida, in particular, has several different species present. These termites can live in extremely dry wood, and have no need to maintain contact with the soil, increasing the difficulty of controlling them.


What Do They Eat?

Drywood termites infest dry, undamaged wood in manmade structures, including furniture and other wooden items found throughout the home. In nature, the insects feed on a variety of stumps, downed logs, and dead branches. Particularly in urban areas, the termites may affect rose bushes, ornamental tress, and even fruit trees.


Unlike the colonies of other termite species, drywood termite colonies mature at a slow pace. While other species form colonies that end up containing millions of members, drywood colonies generally only number in the thousands. Swarming occurs in late summer, typically on sunny days with temperatures of more than 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Relatively poor fliers, the swarming alates glide on the wind and land on or near a food source. Upon landing, they lose their wings, pair up, and mate for life.

The new king and queen find a crack or crevice in a piece of wood and excavate to begin laying eggs. Larvae mature through at least seven instars before becoming either soldiers or pseudergates. Drywood termites enjoy a relatively long lifespan, and new alates typically do not leave the nest until the king or queen dies.


  • Check the walls for hollow sounds, which is evidence of tunneling.
  • In late summer, swarming activity indicates the insects will soon make new nests.
  • Look for alates and fecal pellets on windowsills or around the home.

Problems Caused by Drywood Termites

Most infestations of drywood termites occur in pieces of furniture, though some structural woods may also come under attack. The insects enter the home in a variety of ways, which makes exclusion difficult and leaves different areas of the structure vulnerable to infestation, especially during periods of swarming. In some areas, pleasure boats, barges, and other commercial vessels made of wood are at risk of drywood termite infestation.

Signs of Infestation

Noticing alates during swarming periods may indicate that wooden structures and furniture in and around the home are in danger of infestation. The drywood termite spends its entire life inside wood, constructing round holes where fecal pellets often accumulate below. Finding the hard, elongated pellets, which are light tan in color with rounded edges, is therefore a strong sign of a termite infestation. Furthermore, knocking on infested wood will produce a dull, hollow sound indicating the presence of tunneling termites, as well.

Prevention Tips

Because colonies of drywood termites expand and mature more slowly than those of other termite species, early detection remains critical. Detecting a termite colony before it has had time to produce a very large number of the pests can help prevent future problems and damages associated with the wood-boring insects. Sealing any cracks around window panes and door frames can also help prevent termites from infesting.


The slower maturation rate of drywood termite colonies means that infestations can go unnoticed for years. Once an infestation is identified, removal typically involves contacting a trained pest management professional. Simply removing the infested wood can be beneficial, but to completely eradicate the infestation, a pest management specialist often needs to administer applications of targeted insecticides, such as termiticides.