Two drywood termite species of economic importance have been documented in Arizona. Of these two species, the dark western drywood termite (Incisitermes minor) is the most widespread and destructive drywood termite species in the western United States. These termites infest areas of decayed wood in numerous tree species, including sycamore, oak, alder, cottonwood, eucalyptus, and willow, and infestations have been found in living species of just about every fruit tree that grows in the southwest.
In a way, the dark western drywood termite species is more widespread and destructive than subterranean termite species in the US, as the dark western drywood termite can infest the hardest of natural and structural wood sources including flooring, windows, door frames, soffits, fascia boards, and roof sheathing. Also, this species is able to thrive within numerous climatic zones ranging from the hottest and driest deserts to the rainiest and most humid northern regions in North America. The dark western drywood termite species’ exceptional tolerance to varying climates has been made clear by infestations that have emerged in all areas of North America. This species often infest structures well outside of its native range due to its habit of infesting stored lumber and furniture items that are shipped all over the US. In Arizona, the dark western drywood termite species can be found swarming on sunny days lasting from June until August, and swarms are not associated with rainfall or the monsoon season.
The second drywood termite species of economic importance in Arizona, the light western drywood termite (Marginitermes hubbardi), can be found swarming around dusk from June through September, and these swarms are also not associated with bouts of rainfall. In southern Arizona, these termites are more abundant in manmade structures than they are within their natural desert habitat. Like the dark western drywood termite, the light western drywood termite is able to infest natural and structural sources of hard wood. The only factors that make drywood termite infestations manageable is their relatively small colony sizes and the slow rate at which drywood termite colonies form.
Subterranean termites in Arizona are more economically damaging than drywood termite species in the state, but native subterranean termite species have shorter annual swarming seasons. Termite species that are native to the Sonoran Desert region are particularly destructive, and each species in the region requires particular control strategies in order to be effectively exterminated.
Have you ever witnessed a termite swarm in the Sonoran Desert region?