Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart?

Termite damage can be devastating, but to eliminate them from your home, you need to know which kinds of termites are present. In this blog, we look at the differences between dampwood and drywood termites.

Termites are the worst enemy of your home and the wooden furniture in it. These insects can cause massive damage to anything that is built from wood.

But did you know that different termites are attracted to different types of wood?

Yes, the nature of the wood determines which termite species is likely to attack the structure built from it.

In this article, we will discuss the dampwood and drywood termites and what conditions they favor to build a colony.

Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart


Dampwood Termites

If you observe under a microscope, you will notice that dampwood termites and larger than drywood termites in size.

The termite species have swarmers (winged termites) that show an average growth of 0.5 inches. These species have light to dark brown bodies.

They also have small yellow or red streaks on their bodies. The heads are large, with mandibles on the front to carve and eat wood.

Dampwood termites are usually found in logs, dead trees, poles, stumps, and more. They are also known to infest wooden structures with high moisture content.

Drywood Termites

On the other hand, drywood termites have smaller and slimmer bodies. These types of termites usually show an average growth of 0.25 inches in length.

They have long and narrow bodies with white or light brown color. They have distinctive vein-like patterns on the upper edge of their wings.

Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart

Nesting and Behaviors

Dampwood Termites

The two species of termites show different nesting behaviors. The dampwood termite like to build their nests in areas with high moisture content.

Places with wet and decaying wood are ideal for these termites to establish a colony.

They usually avoid infesting dry wood furniture due to the absence of moisture but will invade indoor areas that have water leaks and drainage spouts.

You can also find these termites outdoors in fence posts and piles of moist wood.

Dampwood termites live in large colonies that can contain several thousand termite members.

The settlements are divided into three primary sections: false workers, soldiers, and the reproductives. The false workers are immature termites with the absence of wings.

Drywood Termites

Drywood termites prefer to nest inside dry wooden furniture in your home. They are often found living in smaller colonies that have fewer than 1000 termites.

However, these small colonies can spread far and wide and can take years to completely mature. Like most termites, they depend on wood as their primary food source.

Unlike dampwood termites, they don’t need to be around moisture and are usually found in window frames, photo frames, indoor and outdoor furniture, and more.

Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart

Swarming Behavior

The act of new termites flying and leaving their existing colonies to search for a new nesting site and food is called swarming.

Swarming is seen when an existing termite colony completely matures or exceeds its maximum capacity.

During these periods, you will notice thousands of winged termite swarms flying around your house in search of a good place to lay the nesting foundation for reproducing and building a new colony.

Dampwood Termites

The swarming seasons are different for drywood and dampwood termites. The dampwood termites prefer to start the termite swarming process during the summer months.

You will also notice that their swarming takes place mostly during evenings when the temperature is low, and there is enough humidity in the air.

Drywood Termites

The drywood termites, on the other hand, start the swarming process during the early fall or the late summer season.

Since they build nests inside the food source, it is difficult to trace them. However, if you find traces of wings near the window sills, it probably shows that they have decided to nest in that particular spot.

Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart


Since dampwood termites need to stay around moisture, they don’t aggressively attack wooden furniture until and unless there is the acceptable moisture content in it.

The drywood termites love to feed on dry wooden furniture instead. Since they reside inside the food source, it is difficult to track them and eliminate them.

In many cases, these termites silently destroy the wooden structures from the inside, and when it becomes visible, the structural termite damage is almost beyond repair.

Hence, we can conclude that the intensity of damage caused by dampwood termites is comparatively less than the damage caused by drywood termites.

However, both should be eliminated as soon as possible. In the next section, we will describe how to identify the signs of infestation.

Signs of Infestation

Dampwood Termites

As mentioned above, dampwood termites consume wood that is either decaying or near moist surroundings. This makes them less prone to attack or infest your homes and furniture.

One way to locate or detect a dampwood termite infestation is by locating fecal pellets of these termites.

You can also catch an infestation by finding pair of wings that these termites shed after the swarming process. You will most likely find these discarded wings on floors and window sills.

You will have a tough time locating a dampwood termite infestation, but if you look for a critical element like fecal pellets, your job will become much easier.

They usually push out these pellets through the small holes that they dig in the wood they are inhabiting. The fecal pellets will have a grainy texture and will show the same color as that of the wood.

Dampwood Vs. Drywood Termite: How To Tell Them Apart

Drywood Termites

If you want to identify the damage from drywood termites, a common method is to inspect the wooden structures by mildly hitting them to produce a sound.

If the sound coming from a piece of furniture is hollow, drywood termites have probably damaged it by building colonies.

You might notice grainy wooden deposits near furniture; this also indicates the presence of drywood termites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do dampwood termites eat drywood?

Dampwood termites usually prefer to eat wood that has a high moisture content. Wooden structures constantly in contact with water or decaying wood is a prime food source for them. These termites need to stay in touch with moisture and usually avoid eating drywood.

What is worse, drywood termites or subterranean termites?

Since subterranean termites live in larger compared to drywood termites, they are capable of causing much faster and more severe damage to wooden structures like furniture, photo frames, window frames, wooden poles, and more. Due to the lesser number, the damage caused by drywood termites is comparatively slow.

What causes dampwood termites?

Since they need to be in contact with moisture, dampwood termites are highly attracted to surfaces with excess moisture.
Therefore if your yard contains any decaying pieces of wood, it will be a hotspot for these termites.
Also, water-related problems like damaged pipes, plumbing problems, and roof leaks will quickly draw dampwood termites into your home.

How can you tell the difference between drywood and subterranean termites?

Drywood termites have bigger bodies compared to subterranean termites.
Also, the drywood termites are dark brown in color with several veins on the topmost edge of their wings, while the subterranean termites have a dark brown shade with a single vein on the top edge of their wings.
Drywood termites build nests inside their food source.

Do dampwood termites bite?

Dampwood termites are not known to bite humans. However, the soldiers in a dampwood termite colony have the ability to bite and will attack if one tries to approach them recklessly. These termites usually bite when they are eating wood or hunting.

Wrap Up

Dampwood termites and Drywood termites are different creatures with different habits and appearances.

Despite having a number of differences, these termites have one thing in common; they are capable of causing massive structural damage in your homes.

But to get rid of them, you must be able to identify and differentiate between the two.

We hope this article will prove to be beneficial in identifying them and eliminating their colonies effectively.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read the piece. 


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment