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Is it hard to get rid of drywood termites?

Termites are a common pest in homes, especially in warmer climates. Drywood termites are one of the most difficult termite species to control because of their biology and behavior. Getting rid of drywood termites takes persistence and professional treatment, but it can be done.

What are drywood termites?

Drywood termites live in and feed on wood. Unlike subterranean termites that live in soil and tunnel up into wood, drywood termites establish colonies inside wood structures like beams, walls, and furniture.

There are two main species of drywood termites in the United States:

  • Western drywood termite – Most common in southwest states like California, Arizona, New Mexico
  • Southeastern drywood termite – Found in southeast coastal states from Texas to North Carolina

Drywood termites get moisture from the wood they eat, so they don’t need soil contact and can live entirely inside a wood structure. A mature drywood termite colony can have thousands of members.

Why are drywood termites so challenging to get rid of?

Several factors make drywood termite infestations difficult to control:

  • Hidden colonies – Drywood termites tunnel deep inside wood, so their colonies are concealed and hard to locate.
  • No soil contact – Treatments like termiticides that are applied to the soil don’t impact drywood termites.
  • Multiple colonies – A structure can be infested by more than one colony, requiring extensive treatment.
  • Difficult detection – Drywood termites do not travel through mud tubes like other species, so there are fewer visible signs of infestation.

Successful drywood termite treatment requires overcoming these challenges to locate and eliminate all the colonies inside the structure.

Signs of drywood termites

Watch for these common signs of a drywood termite infestation:

  • Hollowed out wood that sounds drummy when tapped
  • Piles of fecal pellets that look like granules of sawdust
  • Discarded termite wings around windows, doors, and lighting fixtures where swarmers emerged
  • Blistered wood surfaces as termites tunnel near the exterior
  • Damaged wood elements like baseboards, frames, and flooring

Tap wood with the handle of a screwdriver to listen for hollow areas that indicate termite damage inside. The sooner drywood termites are detected, the better chance of effective treatment before major structural damage occurs.

Professional treatment options

Dealing with a drywood termite problem requires professional help. Here are the main treatment options:

Spot treatments

This targets known infested areas. The termite colony is located through inspection or tapping, then killed by injecting insecticides directly into galleries or fumigation of isolated spaces like attics. This method is less disruptive but termites may not be fully eliminated.


The entire structure is sealed and filled with a gas to penetrate wood and exterminate all drywood termites inside. Vikane gas and sulfuryl fluoride are commonly used. The building must be vacated for 2-3 days until fully aerated.

Heat treatment

Heating the interior to 120-140°F kills termites in walls and other wood materials. This non-chemical option takes 1-2 days but does not require vacating the structure.

Borate treatment

Borates applied to wood can kill and prevent future termite infestations. This is often combined with spot treatments or fumigation for comprehensive protection.

The best results often come from combining methods like fumigation followed by borate application. Termite treatment plans should always be customized for each infestation and structure.

Do-it-yourself drywood termite control

DIY drywood termite control is very difficult. Locating hidden colonies in walls or furniture requires specialized tools. The insecticides needed for effective spot treatments are restricted use pesticides available only to licensed professionals.

Some things homeowners can try:

  • Apply borate solutions to exposed wood surfaces for preventive treatment.
  • Inject foam insecticides into obvious galleries or termite holes. Foam spreads to contact more termites.
  • Use microwave technology that claims to kill termites through wood. Effectiveness is inconsistent.

However, attempting DIY treatment without locating all colonies is unlikely to solve a drywood termite infestation. Calling a professional pest control company is highly recommended.

Cost of professional drywood termite control

The cost to get rid of drywood termites depends on your home size and the extent of the infestation. Here are average costs for professional treatment:

Treatment type Cost
Spot treatment $500 – $1,000
Fumigation $2,000 – $5,000
Heat treatment $2,500 – $4,500
Borate application $1,000 – $2,000

Factors like house size, local rates, and number of infestations raise costs. Getting quotes from at least 3 reputable companies ensures reasonable pricing.

Preparing for drywood termite treatment

Proper preparation is key for effective drywood termite treatment. Here are some steps to take before your scheduled service:

  • Inspect and repair any leaks since termites need moisture.
  • Clear any clutter near walls so technicians can access infested areas.
  • Plan for where to store food and medications if fumigating.
  • Cover sensitive plants and bring pets inside prior to treatment.
  • Open attic and crawl spaces for better access.
  • Read all instructions from your pest control company.

Pre-treatment preparation allows the service to run smoothly and maximizes the termiticide dispersion for best results.

Preventing future drywood termite infestations

After completing treatment, there are steps you can take to help prevent drywood termites from returning:

  • Perform annual inspections for signs of new termite activity.
  • Eliminate wood-to-soil contact around the structure’s exterior.
  • Install smart moisture monitoring systems to alert you of any leaks.
  • Keep firewood, stumps, and debris away from the foundation.
  • Have susceptible wood sprayed with borate solutions.
  • Seal cracks in slabs, stucco, fascia that could allow termite entry.

Proactive prevention measures and diligent monitoring make it much less likely drywood termites will re-infest after treatment.


Eliminating a drywood termite infestation can be challenging but professional treatment provides effective solutions. The combination of fumigation and borate application offers the best protection followed by preventive maintenance to stop termites from returning. Although it requires an investment, getting rid of drywood termites protects your home from severe structural damage.