Damage from drywood termites can be expensive

There are more than 2,000 species of termites.

They do more than $5 billion in damage every year. Termites are classified as social insects. They evolved from a group of cozy cockroaches long before even the dinosaurs showed up on this planet. If termites had appeared earlier, we wouldn’t have coal to worry about. They would have eaten the dead plants before coal could have been compressed and heated into a fossil fuel.

One of the termites we have along the southern range of the United States is the drywood termite. As the name suggests, these termites infest only dry wood and are not found in the soil. Since they live entirely within a food source and eat continuously 24 hours a day, drywood termites must remove waste inside their colony.

To do this, termites make small holes in the wood exterior, for pushing out their fecal pellets. Over time, if left undisturbed, small piles of these pellets will accumulate under the holes. This is a major characteristic of drywood termites and used to determine their presence.

Most drywood termites infest dead trees. But they can just as easily infest the wood framing and studs in your home. They can also get into untreated fence posts, utility poles, wooden boxes and furniture.

Because of the arid conditions under which drywood termites live along with their relatively small numbers, damage caused by them progresses very slowly. However, as they are so difficult to detect, this damage can, over time, become quite extensive.

As with most termites, control does not fall under the do-it-yourself label. Baiting and drench treatments used to control subterranean and Formosan termite infestations will not work against drywood termites. If a drywood colony is found, the infested wood can be removed and destroyed.

Drywood termite colonies are small (about 2,500 members), so this will often eliminate the problem. A thorough search must be undertaken to make certain all of the infested wood is removed. Any structurally unsound wood should be removed and replaced regardless.

When replacing the wood, use pressure-treated material or wood that has been surface-treated with a borate, copper-arsenate preservative. Even painting will keep out a new drywood infestation. However, any new cracks in the wood should be re-treated. Another option is to inject insecticides such as Bora Care, Premise or Termidor. If the infestation is heavy enough, your house might need to be fumigated.

When it comes to termites of any sort, it is always best to hire a professional to take care of the problem.

For answers to individual questions, please send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Tim Lockley, c/o Sun Herald, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi MS 39535.