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Dampwood Termite – Identification & Overview

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Sometimes called the ‘rotten wood’ termite, dampwood termites are a species of the Termopsidae family. They are found where there is a high moisture content and wood decay, often in fallen logs and tree stumps in forests but also in the decaying wood found in buildings, fences, or other structures.

Structure, Appearance and Characteristics

The dampwood termite is larger in size than the drywood termite and the subterranean termite, but generally forms smaller colonies. Dampwood termites have large heads with mandibles on the front.

Physical characteristics include the following:

  • Soldiers have a flattened brown head with long dark brown/black mandibles.
  • Soldiers can be up to 20mm long.
  • Immature termites (nymphs) can be 20mm long.
  • Alates are dark brown with four pairs of equal-length brown wings. They can be up to 25 mm long, including their wings. They have straight antennae and a straight-sided body.
  • Nymphs are cream in colour and have a spotted pattern on the abdomen, which is caused by the presence of food in the intestines.

There is no worker caste in this species, so nymphs do the work in the colony.

Specialised organisms in the dampwood termites’ digestive system allow them to digest wood.

Dampwood termites swarm in small numbers at several intervals per year. Swarming is influenced by light, humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure

Life Cycle

As with other termites, dampwood termites undergo incomplete metamorphosis, and the nymphs show a lot of similarities to the adult in appearance, gradually molting to assume its fully adult appearance.

The life cycle can be divided into 3 stages; egg, nymph, and adult. The first two stages last approximately a month each and the adult life span can be from one to several years. Nymphs usually require the assistance of worker termites to molt; however, dampwood termites can molt without assistance.

A pair of alates (winged termites) starts a new colony of dampwood termites. They make a chamber within a suitable piece of wood and produce eggs there. In general, colonies are small but can become large if conditions are conducive.

Habitat

In order to survive, these termites need high degrees of humidity and regular contact with water.

Dampwood termites typically do not nest in soil but look for wood with a high moisture content in which to create their habitat, often creating their nest in partially-buried wood, such as stumps of trees or fallen branches.

In contrast to the drywood termite, they are associated with decaying wood and may be found in rotting planks and around leaky showers, baths, roofs, and in areas without sufficient ventilation.

Old gutters filled with leaves can lead to an accumulation of moisture in wall cavities, which is also an attractive environment for the dampwood termite.

To remain hidden and preserve humidity, they cover up entry holes with their own faeces, sealing the galleries where they live from outside air. They do not usually have contact with the soil and do not make tunnels, in contrast with subterranean termites.

Food

The cellulose found in plants is the basic foodstuff of all termite species. Dampwood termites feed on decaying wood and other cellulose materials, digested through the support of symbiotic protozoa and bacteria. They may find their food sources in furniture and elsewhere within the home, in dying trees, and in poles and other structures with a high moisture content. They may also eat injured colony members and other termites within the same habitat.

Destructive Nature

Compared to drywood termites, dampwood termites generally do not cause such extensive damage to man-made structures. However, dampwood termites can weaken the structures of houses by hollowing out support beams, which can require costly repairs. Their activity is difficult to identify until the effects are already severe, as the termites themselves remain hidden. Dampwood termites often eat across the grain and wood that they have already damaged usually looks clean and smooth inside.

Most insurance plans don’t cover this type of damage, so a dampwood termite infestation can represent a significant economic threat.

Termite Control

Identifying and solving any water issues in and around the home and other structures is a key element of dampwood termite control. Water-damaged wood or wood that rests directly on the ground can attract dampwood termites.

Signs of infestation can be observed and identified, such as wings that have been shed, ejected wood pellets, a ‘velvety’ appearance of wood as if finely sandpapered, piles of fecal pellets that are coloured according to the wood being eaten, are elongated and have rounded ends, differing from the flattened surfaces of drywood termite pellets.

To control the problem, it is necessary to reduce moisture in infested areas. This can be done by repairing any leaking plumbing, increasing ventilation, checking that drains are functioning, and adjusting structures so that contact of water with wood and soil is minimised.

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11 months ago
Just had my home barrier treatment for termites by Pest Ex. In every way a brilliant job and fantastic friendly service unlike...read more anything else I have struck on the Gold Coast. This is a very professional company and every person involved was excellent in every way. Strongly recommend them to all who read this review because you won't do better.
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On time. Efficient. Friendly. Informative. Well priced. Our experience with Pest-Ex was easy from the moment Reception answered our call. Our routine...read more pest inspection could be done the next day (a Saturday which is most convenient for full time workers). Karl arrived at 7am with a smile to complete the service and carried out the work efficiently informing us of the process where required. Thanks team.
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2 years ago
Very professional and able to identify our pest problem on the spot. Was on time and great communication with admin girls via...read more phone. Very conscious of keeping our pet safe after the treatment which was a classy touch. Highly recommend!
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6 months ago
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a year ago
Thank you to Garyn who first identified the issues, he was extremely thorough and prompt and then to John and Janine and...read more the team who treated and area and placed the baits. The process was fully explained and they were extremely courteous and very professional. Thank you to all the team. The office also kept us up to date with when their representatives would be visiting and this is very much appreciated. Great work.
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After reading reviews, I'm glad that I chose Pest-Ex. Maria in the office was more than understanding to accommodate me and times....read more I was able to get a booking the same day I made the enquiry. Garyn my technician was even able to come earlier. When he arrived he was happy to explain everything that was going to happen and how to work around my pets and children. Need pest control done - hire these guys.
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a year ago
This company actually investigates the problem instead of just spraying your place and leaving. Very HIGH knowledge and experience in what they...read more do. They took the time to investigate the cause, the source of the problem and elimnated it completely which included going through every cupboard, cracks hiding spots the lot. We had a cochroach problem in our apartment for 3 months and we had 4 different companies come out and NONE of them investigated they only sprayed. After we called PestEx, Mr. Phillips was very knowledgeable and experienced eliminating our problem entirely. We also use PestEx in our shop and both Mr Phillips and Marty are EXCELLENT in resolving and maintaining pest problems. HIGHLY RECOMMEND PEST EX. BEST I'VE SEEN IN QUEENSLAND.