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Front Door or Back Door?

Tuesday February 14, 2006

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Mr Pest Control

Question:

DO DAMPWOOD OR FORMOSAN TERMITES HAVE THE ABILITY TO LAND AND CHEW DIRECTLY INTO WOOD? MY BOSS AND I ARE HAVING A DISCUSSION ABOUT THIS. I SAY THEY CAN'T, HE SAYS THEY CAN.

Mr Pest Control

Answer:

Hi Wendell, and thanks for this question. I'll be really diplomatic (maybe call that wishy-washy) and say that I looked quite a bit at articles, literature, etc. and really couldn't find a statement that said specifically whether termites can do this. So, please keep the peace there and don't fight with the Boss. This, of course, does not stop me from issuing my opinion, and in my opinion I think it is likely that at times YES, either of these termites might very well be able to excavate directly into wood. Sorry, I guess this really is siding with the Boss.



Dampwood termites are rare in structures, but they do occur occasionally when very wet wood is available. Since they did not tunnel through the soil to get to this wet wood it seems logical that the only way that colony got started there was for swarmers to have landed in that area and discovered the wood suitable for them to work in. Now, of course, the question is did they simply chew through the outer surface and create the initial colony, or did they find some crack or gap in the wood that they could squeeze into initially, and from there continue to excavate the larger cavities? Don't know on this, so now I'm back on your side. I would be inclined to go out on that bouncy, precarious limb though, and say that it could well be "possible" for them to chew directly into that wet wood.



Formosans, I would think, would be very much the same. They probably would prefer to take the path of least resistance to get inside that wood, but if the wood is the right stuff and no crevices are already there then they have jaws and should have the ability to chew their way in to get things started. Bugs are built to survive, and they do what they have to do. Formosans, maybe 25% of the time in Hawaii, form aerial nests that began above the ground and have no contact, and never have had contact, with the soil. Thus, the colony must have begun with swarmers landing on the surface and getting into the wood on their own. Again, the question is did they chew through the surface or find a gap the first time, and I haven't read any information that tells me the answer.



A fun question, so thanks. It's the kind of question that makes us stand back and analyze the insect, the situations we find them in, and hypothesize about how they managed to get there. I hope no unusual amounts of money hinge on my answer.

Mr. Pest Control

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