Drywood termites are a species of termite that can thrive in dry, hard wood found inside a home. This includes structural timbers, as well as banisters, picture frames, and furniture. Unlike subterranean termites, drywood termites do not build colonies underground. Instead, they gain access to wood directly and are able to extract the necessary water from the wood they consume.

Drywood termites are often found in West Coast, Florida, and Hawaii. However, they can also be found further east in Texas and the Carolinas. If you think there might be an infestation of drywood termites, it’s important to quickly find termite treatment. These pests can be just as harmful as other types of termites.

What Do Drywood Termites Look Like?

Drywood termites vary in size, which is determined by their age, and can range from 1/4 inch to 1 inch in length. Adult drywood termites possess a thicker waist that is oval-shaped, short legs, and straight antennae. They also possess wings of equal length. These termites are typically cream-white to light brown in color and have six legs.


Alates, also known as swarmers, possess a pair of wings on both sides of their body. The front wings have three or more distinct, strongly colored veins in their outer part. After swarming, swarmers shed their wings rapidly, resulting in most deceased swarmers lacking wings attached to their bodies.

This characteristic is useful to differentiate between drywood termite swarms and subterranean termite swarms. Subterranean termite swarms typically have dead swarmers present, both with and without wings.


The drywood termite soldiers are equipped with sizable mandibles that have teeth. Their pronotum is as broad, if not broader, than their head. Additionally, in comparison to the soldier termites and worker termites in subterranean termite colonies, the majority of drywood termite soldiers and workers are larger in size.


These insects can create colonies in wood and other cellulose materials without needing a ground connection. They are commonly found in attic wood and do not require much moisture.


Before maturing into adults, nymphs go through a series of four to seven developmental stages known as instars. As for the reproductive individuals, they eventually gather and take flight in order to establish fresh colonies.

To learn more about termites in Florida, check out our blog “Termites in Florida: The Complete Guide to Identification and Control”.

Termites vs. Ants

Termites, whether drywood or subterranean, can be distinguished from ants in the following ways:

  • Termites have broad waists, whereas ants have narrow waists that are noticeably thinner than the rest of their body.
  • Termites possess straight antennae, while ants have either clubbed or bent antennae.
  • Termites have relatively short legs, whereas ants have longer legs in comparison to their body size.
  • In termites, all wings have the same length when present. In ants, the front wings are typically longer than the hind wings.

To identify whether you are dealing with termites or ants, you should determine the type of insect you are facing. If you have termites, the next step is to identify the specific species. Identifying the specific type of termite by examining the insect itself can prove to be a challenging task. However, it is typically much simpler to ascertain the type of termites present by observing the damage they have caused.

More Information

The estimated cost of termite damage to homes in the United States surpasses a billion dollars each year. Unfortunately, unlike natural disasters such as fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes, most homeowner insurance policies do not cover termite damage. Moreover, the hazards of termite infestation are often not well-publicized, resulting in many homeowners assuming that preventative measures are unnecessary.

Fortunately, scheduling annual inspections can be an effective way to prevent substantial damage to your home caused by termites. In North America, there are two main families of termite: subterranean and drywood termites. Both of these species consume cellulose-based materials, such as books, dried plants, furniture, and structural wood. Although subterranean termites typically tunnel through soil, drywood termites do not require soil to thrive.

Drywood termites can spread quickly throughout a house after gaining entry, dispersing to multiple rooms and floors.

Even though drywood termites are less prevalent than subterranean termites and are typically located in the coastal regions of southern and southwestern states, the harm caused by drywood termite infestations can be severe.

These types of termite infestations are often noticeable due to piles of fecal pellets, which are commonly discovered on surfaces like windowsills. If you spot accumulations of small pellets in your home, it might indicate a drywood termite infestation. It’s advisable to seek the assistance of a trained pest control specialist who can carry out a comprehensive inspection.

Drywood vs. Subterranean Termites

Drywood Termites:

  • Drywood termites do not need to make contact with soil to survive
  • Drywood soldier termites are characterized by their protruding mandibles
  • Drywood termites establish their colonies inside the wood they are infesting
  • Drywood termites do not make mudtubes
  • Drywood termites can fly into structures to infest the wood
  • Drywood soldier termites are characterized by their protruding mandibles
  • Drywood termites leave piles of fecal pellets outside the wood they are infesting
  • Drywood termites have been known to consume wood both across and along the grain
  • Drywood termites are commonly found in coastal areas. Infested wood can transport them to other regions, especially when furniture is moved.

Subterranean Termites:

  • Subterranean termites construct their primary nest underground
  • Subterranean termites build mud tubes
  • Subterranean termites are known for forming large colonies
  • Subterranean termites do not produce fecal pellets like drywood termites do
  • Subterranean termites usually feed along the grain of the wood
  • Carton nests, made of a mixture of soil, chewed wood particles, and saliva, are constructed by subterranean termites in wall voids and trees as a source of shelter and moisture. A carton is a termite nest made from their fecal matter to maintain proper moisture levels when they cannot return to their subterranean nest.

If you are dealing with subterranean termites, we recommend consulting our Subterranean Termite Control Guide.

If your looking for a full guide on how to get rid of termites, check out our blog “How To Get Rid Of Termites In House”!

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