It is difficult to determine when in human history termites started to become economically damaging insect pests, but evidence suggests that termite pest issues pre-date the advent of modern timber-framed homes. Archeological evidence and cave drawings indicate that indigenous Australian aborigines were not strangers to termite damage, as they exploited the insect’s wood-eating habits to create a musical instrument known as a didgeridoo. During the 17th century, biologists began choosing names for termite species that reflected their habit of damaging wood. For example, one of the earliest names for a termite species was Termes destructor, which translates to “destroyer of wood.” However, research publications that describe termites as pests of woodwork did not appear until the 19th century.
The earliest examples of research literature on termite pests focus mainly on subterranean termites, and not drywood or dampwood termites. The first research publications that documented drywood termite species in North America appeared in the 1920s, and this decade saw the establishment of the first termite-control organization in California. By the 1930s, a global research organization was formed for the purpose of describing termite species and the damage they cause. The research conducted by members of this organization was published in a book about the management of termite pests, and several chapters were devoted solely to drywood termites.
The earliest pest control company that managed drywood termite pest issues emerged in southern California back in 1905. The first recorded use of fumigants for insect pest control date back to the 1870s, and fumigants were used by early pest control companies to eradicate drywood termite infestations. Surprisingly, fumigations are still the most common method of drywood termite control, but today, spot treatments are frequently used as an alternative to full-structure fumigations.
While control methods for most insect pests have evolved considerably since the establishment of the pest control industry, there has been relatively little innovation when it comes to drywood termite control. This is mostly due to the difficulty in detecting and eliminating drywood termite infestations. Since drywood termite colonies permanently inhabit the inner cavities of wood where they cannot be seen or accessed, there are only so many ways of controlling the pests. Over the last century, numerous drywood termite control methods have been proposed and tested including high heat treatments using propane heaters, freeze treatments using liquid nitrogen, electrocution using the patented “electro gun,” and even microwaves.
Have you ever suspected your home of being infested with drywood termites?