These dampwood species are found in states west of the Rocky Mountains. A similar termite species is found in South Florida and the Caribbean. Termites are social insects which live in large colonies. There are three castes: reproductives, workers, and soldiers. Termite antennae have bead-like segments. The winged reproductives (swarmers) have a pair of long wings (equal in size) attached to the last two thoracic segments. The wings are broken off after swarming. The abdomen is broadly joined at the thorax unlike the narrow abdominal attachment found on ants.
Dampwood termite winged reproductives are light brown with dark brown, leathery wings which can be up to one inch long. Some species have a fontanelle (i.e. a small opening on their heads) and / or ocelli (i.e., eyes). The nymphs, or workers, are 1/8 to 1/3 inch long and white to cream in color with dark abdomens. The soldiers are 3/8 to 3/4 inch long with large heads with long black-toothed mandibles. Their heads are black at the front and change gradually to a red brown, and their bodies are light brown. Fecal pellets are oval with flat sides, about 1/32 inch long and the color of the infested wood.
The southeastern species swarms in the spring; the desert and western species swarm in summer through fall. Most species swarm in the evening and are attracted to light. At most, dampwood termites produce a few hundred swarmers compared to subterranean termites which produce thousands of swarmers. The founding male and female create a sealed chamber in the wood and within two weeks produce approximately 12 eggs. The second batch of eggs is laid the following spring. The colonies gradually increase in size, some reaching as many as 4,000 individuals.
Except for the desert dampwood termite, dampwood termites do not require soil to wood contact, but the wood they infest mush have a very high moisture content. These termites infest almost any kind of wood and tolerate very high levels of moisture. They often are found in dock and wharf pilings, logs, stumps and dead trees.
As they excavate wood while feeding, dampwood termites litter the inside of their tunnels with their fecal pellets. Dampwood termites usually enter structures in areas where there is wood soil contact and water damaged wood.