Home owners shake with fear at the very word, “termite”.  And rightfully so, these insects cause up to $5 billion dollars of damage annually.  These wood eating creatures can wreak havoc in the wood materials used to build your home.  Visions of falling in structures and piles of sawdust may be unfounded, but haunt us none the less.  But what is the difference between the three types of termites: dry wood, damp wood and subterranean termites? Subterranean termites live underground across the U.S. Dry wood termites are in more arid regions such as California and Arizona.  Damp wood termites prefer the damp wood of coastal forests.

There are many different species of termite, but these three are the most common.   They are each suited for different parts of the country, but termites can transport themselves by hitching a ride on a pallet, or wood that has been transported.  In Oklahoma, we only have subterranean termites.  But this does not mean that the other two couldn’t be transported into our state.  It is important that if you see termite damage that you contact an Oklahoma exterminator.  


Eastern subterranean termites are the most common termites here in Oklahoma.  These termites build colonies of millions of termites under ground.  They, by far, do the most damage to homes, businesses and other structures in Oklahoma.  These termite’s fragile exoskeletons require high humidity air around them at all times.  Without this moisture, they will dry out and die.  For this reason, these termites must remain underground, where the air is more humid, at all times.  

But, in order to find for food, they must often forage for food above the surface.  Subterranean termites accomplish this by building mud tubes.  These tubes are built using mud, sawdust and their feces.  These tubes will not only carry the termites, but the humid underground air as well.  They have four different types of tubes.  The foraging tubes are smaller and extend up the sides of buildings and other structures in search of food.  Once food is found, they will build utility tubes.  These tubes are larger and allow the workers to transport the food underground.  Return tubes go back to the ground.  They are often lighter in color because they are using materials from the building.  And lastly there are swarming tubes.  These open ended tubes are strictly for the purpose of allowing reproductives out of the colony to swarm.


Subterranean termites follow an incomplete metamorphosis.  This means that they are born from eggs, and hatch as nymphs.  Nymphs are smaller versions of the adults that will molt and grow into adults.  A complete metamorphosis is an egg, larvae, pupa, adult progression that insects such as ants go through.  When the termite is born, it will be part of one of three castes.  The workers are sterile females that forage for and transport food, build tubes and feed the rest of the colony.  The soldiers are there for the protection of the colony.  They have large heads and powerful mandibles.  Lastly, we have the reproductives, or alates.  These are the only termites with wings and produce new colonies.  

Once a colony gets to a certain size, they will begin building swarm tubes and and producing alates.  In late spring, these swarmers will take flight.  Both male and female swarmers will fly to find a swarm of like minded alates from other colonies.  The ones that survive will pair up, and find a suitable place to start their new colony. They will burrow underground and mate, and the new queen will begin to lay eggs.  The king will tend to the eggs and nymphs until the first generation of workers can take over those duties.  And then the process starts all over again.  


Dry wood termites are mostly found in arid areas.  These termites don’t dry out in open air like their subterranean cousins.  They also create much smaller colonies.  Most are 2,500 or less.  These termites burrow into dead and dry woods to build their colonies.  It is difficult to detect them, because they live in the center of a piece of wood.  The key is looking for the frass holes.  If you find these holes, you will see the frass pellets on the ground outside of them.  These termites form hexagonally shaped frass.  This is an important distinction from other termites.  

Dry wood termites are treated either locally or as a whole structure.  Whole structure treatments are tented and then fumigated.  This is the most effective way of treating these pests as it will not only eliminate the colonies found, but also any hiding ones.  Local treatments use a foam to fill the insides of termite colonies.  A Tulsa exterminator can help you with these treatments.  


Damp wood termites do require the moisture from underground to survive.  But they do require the moisture in the wood.  This is why most damp wood termites are found in forest costal regions.  All along the Florida, Alabama and Louisiana coasts, you will find these termites.  They seldom attack homes or businesses, unless there is a source of water dripping on wood.  So, in most cases, eliminating the source of water will cause the colony to desiccate and die.  

Dry wood termites have a caste system much like the other species of termites, except that there are no workers.  Instead, young termites, or pseudergates, work as the workers until they mature into soldier’s or alates.  Damp wood termites have frass holes, but a tell tale difference between them and the dry wood version is the shape of their frass.  Because of the moisture content of the wood, their frass is oval, or even paste like.  It loses its hexagonal shape because of the moisture in it.  


Termites are definitely a problem here in Oklahoma.  In most cases, you will only see Eastern subterranean termites, but it’s helpful to know the differences between the different species.  If you believe that you have a termite problem, then it’s time to call an Oklahoma pest control company.  The best Tulsa pest control company, TermMax Pest Control, is ready and willing to help.  We offer free estimates.  We are here to help!

to top