Summary: Drywood termites don't require a moisture source, so the homeowner does not usually know they are there doing their damage unless they swarm. It requires a pest control professional to do the termite inspection.
Jen, Fountain Valley, CA asks:
Over the last two weeks I have found several dead termite swarmers around the apartment. I worry there is a colony of termites feeding on my furniture. How should I go about removing the suspected affected furniture while trying to avoid a spread of the termites?
Drywood termites are usually very difficult to detect. In fact, most people don't even know they have them until they notice swarming termites. Unlike their subterranean cousins to the north and east, drywood termites create fairly small colonies of about ten-thousand workers. That may sound like a lot, but Eastern subterranean termites have colonies that grow to be as large as 500,000 termites.
The colonies of drywood termites are inside wood whereas other types of termites make their presence known with a network of mud tubes on the wood surfaces. On thing the drywood termites leave behind as an indication of their activity is fecal pellets. The pellets are pushed out of the nest and actually may accumulate in small piles directly below an infestation. The hard, six sided ridged-shaped pellets are about the size of table salt.
Subterranean termites require contact with the soil to restore moisture to their bodies. Drywood termites don't need any water source. They do their life's work inside the wood, carving it out until the wood becomes so thin it fails. Often, upon discovering drywood termite damaged wood you will find numerous passageways packed tight with fecal pellets.
So, here's the problem. You can try to guess which pieces of furniture are infested with drywood termites or you can call in an expert who knows where to look and what signs to look for. Most often these termites infest the structural timbers of a building, but they are certainly capable of infesting woodwork, furniture and other wood objects. Even though you are concerned about your furnishings, no matter what steps you take, the problem will not go away until your landlord has the building treated.
In some cases the treatment for drywood termites can be done by drilling holes where the suspected nest is situated. However, termite fumigation, tenting the building and using a gas that permeates the structure, is commonly done and is most effective.
This is not a job for do-it-yourselfers. It's going to require a pro.
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