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                        DRY WOOD TERMITES


Because this species only infests structural lumber, its origin remains unknown, but is likely indigenous to an obscure location in the Neotropics. Cryptotermes brevis was probably spread by wooden ships carrying wooden goods from port to port as development of the New World proceeded in the 17th century. This species is thought to have been introduced into the continental United States at Key West, Florida, before 1919. Some structure-infesting members of the genus Cryptotermes, like C. brevis, are called powderpost termites because their fecal pellets tend to be somewhat smaller than those of other drywood termite species. 


Cryptotermes brevis is the most widespread drywood termite in the tropics worldwide, and in the United States is common throughout Hawaii, Florida, and some coastal regions of the Southeast. In Florida, populations of C. brevis tend to increase southward along the peninsula and concentrate in older buildings near the coast, but infestations can occur anywhere. Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, St. Petersburg, and Tampa have heavy populations of C. brevis. Some cities along the gulf coast, notably, New Orleans, Galveston, and Corpus Christi, are also afflicted with heavy resident populations

As with all termites, drywood termites are social insects, but unlike subterranean termites, they live entirely within the wood members they infest and obtain water adsorbed onto wood fibers and by metabolic processes. Drywood termites are generally larger and more cylindrical in body form compared to subterranean termites. Because their gallery systems are limited to and usually extend only a few meters within their home wood, drywood termites have proportionally shorter legs and move more slowly than their more far-ranging subterranean counterparts. Characters shared with other termites include chewing mouthparts for feeding on wood, well-developed tarsal claws for gripping wood surfaces, moniliform (bead-like) antennae, and blindness except in the reproductive caste.

Drywood termite colonies are composed of three primary castes: the reproductives (king, queen, and unmated winged forms called alates), soldiers, and immature reproductives or pseudergates (i.e.,"false workers"). The pseudergates excavate wood to feed themselves and the other caste members in the colony. Eggs and larvae (first few instars) are usually near galleries inhabited by the king and queen. All termite species are difficult to distinguish by immature or worker stages or by the wingless king or queen, therefore, soldiers or alates (flying termites) are best be used for species identification. Soldiers are present in colonies year round, while alates are formed about a month before swarming season.


Colonies of all drywood termite species infest sound, solid hardwoods and softwoods, including all common building lumbers used in structural framing. Numerous colonies may inhabit a single structure. Cryptotermes brevis is more apt than the other species to infest smaller articles of furniture such as headboards, cabinets, and picture frames. Pseudergates excavate galleries in sapwood in preference to heartwood, but show no preference between annual spring and summer growth rings. Because drywood termites seek protection from external predation, galleries are concealed beneath the wood surface. Sounding with a hard implement can locate hollowed-out wood. A very thin wood surface in late stages of attack may have a blistered appearance. External signs of infestations, however, most often consist of fecal pellets extruded from 0.04 to 0.08 inch (1 to 2 mm) diameter "kick-out" holes. Pellets will accumulate in piles directly beneath holes. Pile diameter is proportional to the height from which pellets fall. Drywood termite fecal pellets, with six longitudinal surfaces capped with one rounded and one more tapered end, are uniquely shaped compared to all other wood-infesting insects. Pellets vary in color from cream to red to black and are expelled periodically from different kick-out holes communicating with the gallery system. Pellets do not change in shape or color over time and their color is often unrelated to the wood from which they were expelled. Swarming alates, ( FLYING TERMITES) wings, and ejected fecal pellets are a sanitary nuisance, and pellets may present a slipping hazard on smooth floors.


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