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Termites cause more damage than natural disasters. They cost homeowners about $5 billion a year in the United States alone.

As with most pests, there is a vast array of termite species – around 2,750 worldwide and more than 45 different species in the U.S.  The two most common types of termite usually found eating their way through our homes are drywood termites and subterranean termites. So what’s the difference between these two types?

Drywood Termites

These pests are typically some shade of brown and are a larger species than the subterranean termite. They are not considered a danger to people because they do not bite or sting, but they are a huge danger to your home. Unlike subterranean termites, this species prefers its wood to be dry – thus their name. They will infest and damage any dry wood product ranging from the structure of your home, to antiques, to furniture and more.

The common sign of a drywood termite infestation is the appearance of frass, which is termite waste or fecal matter. Unlike subterranean termites, which build nests and tunnels for foraging using fecal matter, drywood termites have no use for it as they only excavate tunnels in wood. They get rid of their feces by making a small hole in the wood and pushing it out of their home.

A clear sign of a drywood termite infestation is the collection of frass on the floor or flat surface below the wood they inhabit. Termite frass often looks like sawdust from afar, but on closer inspection you will be able to notice granular pellets, often varying in color. They do not need to live in soil, so it can be a bit more obvious when they invade. They do, however, force home and business owners to incur costly repair bills from their damage.

Subterranean Termites

These pests are smaller in size than the drywood species, but they surely are not smaller when it comes to the damages they cause. They vary in color depending on the job they do within the colony. The workers are soft, white and blind. They are rarely, if ever, seen and spend their lives deep inside the wood they have invaded. The soldiers are a bit larger, but essentially look the same except for an elongated yellow head. The reproductives are the largest members and the most likely to be seen. They are typically dark brown or black and have wings.

Subterraneans must remain in the soil in order to keep from drying out by wind and sun. They live deep underground and build mud tubes to travel through from their nest to their food source, which is typically the support structure of your home. These tubes – constructed from a mixture of soil, wood, saliva and feces – are dark brown and can often be found along the foundations of a property as well as along floor joints inside the building.

Spotting the signs of any termites can be quite difficult and infestations often go unnoticed until it is too late. However, knowing the difference between drywood and subterranean termites, as well as the common signs to look for, can help protect your home from these wood-eating insects.

If you own a home in Massachusetts, chances are you will need termite control at some point. Trust a pest control professional to identify and eliminate these silent destroyers.