Bug Blog

How Does Each Social Caste Within A Drywood And Subterranean Termite Colony Contribute To An Infestation Within Structural Wood?

All three groups of termites are well represented in Arizona where homes are considered to be at high risk of termite infestation. These three termite groups are known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood termites, and while the first two groups are highly destructive pests in Arizona, the third is not considered to be economically significant.

Subterranean termites dwell in nests within the ground soil, and colonies consist of three primary castes known as workers, soldiers, and the reproductive queen and king, or the “royal pair.” When it comes to subterranean termites, workers are responsible for gathering food sources, which they transport back to their colonies in order to physically feed their nestmates. Due to their oversized mouthparts, which are necessary for combatting enemies, soldiers are unable to feed themselves, and the abdominal distention that results from constant egg laying makes queens largely immobile.

Drywood termite colonies consist of soldiers, immatures and a royal pair. Unlike subterranean termites that see workers leave the nest for foraging purposes, drywood termite colonies do not contain a true worker caste, and they are not located beneath the ground surface; instead, drywood termite colonies are contained entirely within single wood items above the ground, such as logs, fallen branches, and of course, structural wood in homes. Although they do not leave the nest, immatures are similar to workers in subterranean termite colonies, as they excavate wood in order to feed their nestmates. Since drywood termite colonies exist within single wood items, their colonies are much smaller in population size than subterranean termite colonies.

After four to seven years of colony maturation, winged reproductive (alates) are produced within both subterranean and drywood termite colonies. Alates take flight from colonies during swarming season in order to mate and establish new colonies as queen and king. Since drywood termites do not leave their enclosed colonies to forage, only alates are capable of initiating infestations within homes.

While it is technically possible for subterranean termite alates to initiate new colonies directly within structural wood, it is very rare for them to do so, as they require abundant moisture within soil in order to survive. However, on exceedingly rare occasions, subterranean termite alates initiate new colonies in excessively damp structural wood sources. Considering these facts, workers of subterranean termite colonies are responsible for locating and infesting structural wood, and although drywood termite alates initiate infestations, only immatures excavate nests within structural wood.

Do you take measures to prevent drywood termite infestations from occurring within your home?