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Termites and other Wood Destroying Organisms

1. Non-subterranean Termites

A. Drywood Termites

Drywood termites live, feed, and nest in undecayed wood which is very low in moisture content. Unlike subterranean termites they do not require any contact with the soil in order to live. They can seriously damage moveable wooden objects such as furniture. In the United States drywood termites are found in narrow strip from Virginia south to Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to northern California on the Pacific coast.

Damage done by drywood termites is entirely different from that caused by subterranean termites. These termites cut across the grain of the wood, excavating large chambers, which are connected by small tunnels. These chambers are kept clean. It looks like they have been sandpapered. They enter the wood from a crack or crevice then bore into the wood. This can be a crack in the wood itself or may be the joint between 2 pieces of wood or space underneath roofing paper.

With their ability to live in wood without soil contact, drywood termites are frequently carried in infested furniture and other wooden objects into other areas.

2. Identification of Subterranean and Drywood Termites

A. Winged Termites

Drywood termites have wings with three or more pigmented veins. Subterranean termites have wings with only 2 pigmented veins.

B. Soldier Termites

Drywood soldiers have teeth on the mandibles. Subterranean termite soldiers have mandibles without teeth.

C. Type of Frass

Subterranean termites have muddy frass that is left in the gallerys. Drywood termite’s frass is a pellet. These pellets are hard and have six distinct concave surfaces on the sides.

3. Wood Destroying Beetles

A. Powder-Post Beetles

Powder-post beetles are usually noticed when fine powder like sawdust is pushed out of holes in infested wood. Infested wood has numerous small holes resembling those made by bird shot on the surface.

Damage is usually found in buildings at last 10 years old because infestations develop slowly. The life cycle from egg to adult usually requires one to two years.

B. Long Horned Beetles.

Old house borer is the most common structural pest of this group of beetles. Adults are large beetles 1/2 to 3/4 inches long. They can be distinguished from other beetles by their long, thin antennae, which may be longer than the body. Usually damage to wood is internal and the only external evidence of injury is one or two oval exit holes 1/4 inch in diameter on the surface of the wood.

4. Wood Decay

Decay of wood in buildings is a problem in moist humid parts of the United States. Moisture in some form is necessary for growth of fungi, which causes rot. Fungi are living plants, which send minute threads, called mycelia through damp wood., taking their food from the wood as they grow. The visible body of the fungus is on the outside surface of the wood. These are called fruiting bodies and when mature produce millions of tiny spores (seeds) which are present in the air and soil.

There are three types of decay fungi:

1. White Rot.

Gives wood a white bleach appearance. The strength of the wood decreases gradually until it becomes spongy and stringy when broken.

2. Brown Rot

Wood turns brown and is broken into brown cubical pieces with cracks perpendicular to the wood grain. It is the principal cause of building decay in the United States and causes rapid loss of wood strength.

3. Water Conducting Fungi (Dry Rot)

Recognized by paper white-yellow mycelia fans and dirty white to black root like structures that can conduct water up to 25 feet from a moisture source to the wood. This fungus can destroy large amounts of wood in one or two years.

These are a sample of the more common findings during a WDO inspection.

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