Florida is prone to termite damage throughout the year. If they go undetected for long, termites can cause irreparable damage to your property and other fittings inside. In Florida, the most common types of termites are the dry wood and subterranean termites. You can tell which one is wreaking havoc by looking at how and where they live and the evidence they leave behind.

Continue reading to learn how dry wood termites vs. subterranean termites compare in terms of their looks, nesting, feeding habits, and the best pest control and treatment options.

How They Differ in Looks

Termites are winged pests that look similar to ants and are closely related to cockroaches. However, you will notice their straight antennas, wide waists, and four equal-sized wings if you look keenly. This is what sets them apart from the other pests. But how can you tell if it is a subterranean or dry wood termite that has invaded your property?

One secret is in their looks.

Both drywood and subterranean flying termites shed their wings as soon as they land on your property. This enables them to crawl around looking for food.

West Indian Drywood termites, which are the most common termite species in Florida, travel on-air and leave their wings around windowsills and near the home lighting fixtures. Their swarmers are dark brown and have clear membranous wings with an iridescent tint. Each wing has three or four veins.

On the other hand, subterranean termites are dark brown-black and have only one dark vein on their wings. Since these termites live on soil, they enter the home through the foundation. You will therefore find their wings scattered on the ground.



Drywood termite vs. subterranean nesting habits

Drywood termites and subterranean termites have different nesting habits.

Just as their name suggests, drywood termites make their nests inside the wood. They do not live in the open or travel around foraging for food. Instead, they look for wooden structures such as doors, walls, windows, cabinetry, flooring, fascia, furniture, windowsills, and attic where they make their nests. Since they live inside their source of food, you will rarely see them. However, it is their peppery frass that betrays them. You will find the six-sided frass that looks like sawdust, pepper, sand, or salt scattered around their nests.


Subterranean termites create their nests in moist, hidden places. The mating pair will find a nice moist place where they lay eggs in the rubble until they have enough workers to help create mud tubes for protection as they forage for food. They make these tunnels between their nest and the source of food or moisture because subterranean termites need protection from predators, the sun, and air. The mud tubes can go up to 12 inches above the ground or a few inches on the ground. You will find these tunnels on wooden fences, sheds, dead and live trees, crawl space, walls, and the attic.

Getting early termite treatment on your furniture is the safest pest control option against this pest.

Colony size

Termites are social pests that live in multi-generational colonies comprising workers, soldiers, and the reproductive queen and king. Workers are usually the majority as they are responsible for all work, including building mud tubes and foraging for food. Soldiers make up only 2-10 percent of the colony, and their job is to offer protection against breaches on the protection tunnels and colony. They often have big heads and elongated mandibles.

Swarmers help the queen with breeding, but in underground colonies where they often go out, they pair up to leave to make a new nest nearby. The primary queen can lay thousands of eggs daily and live as long as 15 years unless you exterminate them. Even though they grow slowly, a termite colony can also have secondary and tertiary reproductive termites.

Subterranean colonies grow faster than dry wood termites because they are not confined in a small space. You can have a few hundred to thousands of dry wood termites in one nest. Still, a mature colony of subterranean termites can have up to one million individuals, especially among the Formosan termites, a species of subterranean termites that eat any type of wood. However, it is possible to have multiple colonies of termites in a single property. Call a professional termite control company as soon as you see the first signs of an infestation and protect your home.

Drywood Termites vs. Subterranean Termites: Level of Damage

Termites survive on cellulose, which is found in wood, paper, books, and cardboard. These insects have enzymes, protozoa, and microbes that break down cellulose into useful nutrients. Due to their large numbers and ability to forage freely around your home, subterranean termites cause damage faster than dry wood termites. They prefer softwoods such as pine. However, Formosan termites are more aggressive than other subterranean termites and munch on different types of wood available.


The first sign of subterranean termite infestation is the presence of mud tubes. These tunnels are made with termites’ saliva, soil or clay, and fecal matter, which looks like non-ridged cardboard. The tunnels can be hidden in the basement or tiny crevices on the wall, where they can go unnoticed for years. They mainly attack the building structure, including support beams, and feed on soft parts of wood, leaving a neat pattern of destruction mixed with soil and dirt. Since they use their excrement to line the mud tubes, you may not be able to suspect a termite infestation until the damage has already been done.

Drywood termites, unlike subterranean termites, do not come into contact with soil or moisture. Neither do they need mud tunnels to survive as they are already safe inside the wood. Since they live inside their food, which is hard dry wood, they damage quietly from the inside out save for the holes they punch around their nest to push out frass and create room for the growing dry wood termite colony.

Even though dry wood termites leave erratic galleries on the wood they infest, it’s not easy to detect termite infestations until the structure falls apart. By this time, the infested wood already has a warped or blistered look and is easy to puncture. Though their damage is centralized, you may have several colonies wreaking havoc in multiple structures around your home. Regular inspection services can help you get a timely termite treatment and protect your home.

How To Get Rid of Termite Colonies?

The differences between dry wood termites and subterranean termites also extend to how they’re treated. Drywood termites are easier to treat. Most pest control professionals will eliminate an entire colony through the use of small-scale termiticides. However, you can protect your home against dry wood termite infestation by treating all hardwood items early.

On the other hand, the best way to eliminate subterranean termites is by using Sentricon. The worker termites eat poisoned bait and then go back to the termites’ nest, poisoning the rest of the colony, including the queen. This poison works slowly and makes termites unable to eat or breed, exterminating the entire territory without going where they live.

Exterminate Drywood and Subterranean Termites

If you can see signs of activity around your home, but don’t know what type of termite it is, call (800) 280-5698 to arrange an inspection or book our termite treatment service for free online.