All you need to know about dampwood termites

Oct 18, 2019, 14:03 PM by Fred Speer

Some may call it the third wheel of termites. These termites don’t get the flashy headlines their uber-aggressive and destructive subterranean relatives get, but nevertheless they can pose a threat to structural integrity of your home.

Clark, your neighborly pest, termite, and lawn care expert, would like to introduce to the dampwood termite.

Dampwood termites are common throughout California, but due to the species’ high moisture requirements, they’re most often found in cool, humid areas along the coast. They typically infest decayed wood that remains moist either through contact with the soil or exposure to excess moisture (e.g., a water leak, or moisture buildup).

Old trees, stumps and logs, utility poles, pilings, and fence posts are prime targets of dampwood termites. Gutters filled with debris or leaves may also cause excessive moisture to accumulate in a home’s wall cavities, making it attractive to dampwood termites.

Dampwood termite swarms can occur throughout the year, but late summer (August to October) is when you are most likely to encounter one. Swarming typically takes place on warm humid evenings just before sunset.

Swarmers (winged reproductives) are attracted to light, and the typical swarmer is up to 3/4 to 1 inch long, including wings. The swarmer is light to dark brown in color, with a yellow to reddish tinge and dark brown wings. Dampwood termites are larger than their drywood or subterranean termite brethren.

Unlike colonies of structure-infesting drywood termites, dampwood colonies require higher humidity levels and regular contact with moisture, and unlike subterranean termites, they do not forage in the soil. Dampwood termites create large, open galleries within the wood where they live and feed.

When swarmers of dampwood termites are visible, it’s a good indication of an existing infestation, and a possible indicator of a moisture or ventilation problem or wood decay in a structure.

Three signs that dampwood termites might be present

Finding dampwood termite infestations can be a little tricky, because there is little visual external evidence of their presence. They do not build mud tubes like subterranean termites do, or create visible open holes in the wood. This absence of external evidence makes them harder to detect and prevents their nesting areas from drying out.

Dampwood termites will eat across the natural grain of wood, and the chambers they excavate are connected by tunnels with walls that are as smooth as finely sanded wood. They will seal off each chamber with their own fecal pellets.

What are some signs that dampwood termites might be present?

  1. When you tap wood that sounds hollow or feels soft, it’s a sign of a possible dampwood termite infestation. Different types of wood will display a different appearance of damage. In sound wood, dampwood termites will eat the softer spring woods, as will their subterranean cousins.
  2. Fecal pellets may also be found in infested structures and will be found stuck to the sides of the galleries, usually forming clumps of feces.
  3. While looking for a dampwood termite infestation, it is important to be aware of sources of excess moisture and other conditions that may lead to wood decay.

It takes an expert to know where to look for dampwood (or any termite species) termite activity in a home. Clark has years of experience dealing with this destructive adversary, and recommends a thorough termite inspection by one of our highly trained termite inspectors.

You also should ask about Clark Pest Control’s exclusive Termite Infestation Program (T.I.P.), which covers your home from future infestations and damages from all species of termites. A full inspection must be done to see if your home qualifies, and for a small monthly fee, you can avoid costly out-of-pocket treatment and repair expenses. This can give you peace of mind and save you money.

If you suspect your home may have a dampwood termite problem, call or text California’s trusted and friendly termite expert, Clark, at (800) WE-NEED-YOU (936-3339) or send an email to

Until next time, the pest management professionals at Clark Pest Control thank you for helping to keep unwanted pests out of your home and yard.