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More than 20 termite species have been documented as inhabiting Arizona, several of which are known pests of structural wood within homes and buildings. Arizona is home to all three groups of termites known as subterranean, drywood and dampwood. Subterranean termites live in large below-ground colonies that are often composed of several secondary nests that surround the original primary nest where the queen and her eggs reside. These networks of interconnected colonies can span areas larger than a football field below the ground in urban and suburban areas.

Dampwood termite pest species inflict very little structural damage to Arizona homes, making them relatively unimportant as economically damaging pests. Drywood termites are not problematic in most areas of the country, but in the southwest they are almost as destructive as subterranean termites. Since drywood termite colonies are contained entirely within single above ground wood items, like logs and fallen branches, they contain far fewer individuals than subterranean termite colonies. While subterranean termites inflict 80 percent of all termite damage reported in the US annually, the western drywood termite alone inflicts more than one quarter of one billion dollars in structural damage in the southwest every year.

Workers that leave subterranean termite colonies to forage are responsible for initiating infestations within homes. Given their below-ground habitat, subterranean termite workers typically damage substructural wood members that are close to the ground. Their intolerance for dry outside air requires them to build air-tight mud tubes out of a hardening mix of soil, excrement, saliva, and bits of wood. These mud tubes are often found on the exterior foundation walls of infested homes, and they serve as the most common indication that a subterranean termite infestation has been established.

Since only winged reproductive drywood termites (alates) leave colonies to swarm, only they can initiate drywood termite infestations. Since alates are airborne, they can initiate infestations virtually anywhere on or within a home without leaving signs of their presence. This makes drywood termite infestations difficult to both detect and prevent, but some interesting detection methods have been developed, such as infrared imaging devices, acoustic and odor emission detectors, and even termite-sniffing dogs. Housing codes require homes to be built with lumber that has been treated to resist decay and termite attacks, but these protective treatments decay over time, and very few methods of preventing drywood termite infestations have been developed.

Are you aware of any reliable methods of preventing drywood termite infestations?

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