Multiple subterranean and drywood termite species can be found in southern California, but only a few are known for regularly infesting homes in Ventura County. Western subterranean termites and western drywood termites are the two most destructive termite pests to Ventura County homes. California is also home to multiple dampwood termite species, including Pacific dampwood termites, Nevada dampwood termites and desert dampwood termites. Dampwood termites are most concentrated in the mid to northern forested-coastal and northern inland regions of California, but dampwood termites are not absent from the more arid southern region of the state.

Desert dampwood termites occasionally feed on the roots of succulents in residential yard landscapes, sometimes resulting in plant death. However, this is not a common complaint among residents of southern California, and this species is not destructive to homes and buildings. Despite its common species name, the Nevada dampwood termite is one of two dampwood termite species known to inflict property damage in Ventura County, the other being the Pacific dampwood termite. Like drywood termites, dampwood termites establish colonies in single wood items located above the ground, and not below the ground like subterranean termites. Seasonal swarms consisting of reproductive alates emerge from colonies each year in order to start new colonies in natural and finished wood sources.

Like all dampwood termites, Pacific dampwood termites only infest damp wood sources, and they commonly establish infestations in log-built homes in forested areas, in beachside houses, and on irrigated lawns. The moist soil and high humidity near the coast contributes to moisture saturation in structural wood, making homes near the coast particularly vulnerable to Pacific dampwood termite infestations. Furthermore, coastal homes that are located on irrigated lawns and surrounded by shrubbery often prevent damp soil beneath homes from settling and eroding outward. This perpetually damp soil keeps structural and/or cosmetic wood around a home’s foundation moist and attractive to Pacific dampwood termite alates. Nevada dampwood termite swarms emerge during the late summer and fall in coastal areas, but these swarms often emerge in areas where structures are absent from the landscape. Because of this, Nevada dampwood termite swarms are sometimes dismissed as a mere nuisance, especially since winged alates are a large ¾ of an inch in body length.

Have you ever encountered a termite swarm during the fall?