Identifying Wood Destroying Organisms In Your Home
Fungus Decay ("Dry rot")
Fungus damage found inside the walls of a property
Easily the most common type of damage found in homes, Fungus Decay usually Infests seasoned wood members exposed to moisture. While there are many different types of fungus decay the two most common are referred to as "Brown Rot" and "White Rot". Wood members damaged by Brown Rot may become dry and fragile, easily crumbling into small cubes, while White Rot damage may be spongy, stringy and almost white bleached in color. Wood members infected by both types of fungus can become severely damaged before any visible evidence is apparent, especially in exterior wood members that have been painted.
Topical fungus infected sub-floor seen from beneath bathtub
Also referred to as "Surface Fungus" Topical Fungus is mostly found in damp subareas or around water pipes. Topical fungus is usually white in color and as the name implies will be found mainly on the surface of seasoned wood members. If left untreated, Topical Fungus will eventually become Fungus Decay.
Subterranean Termites are the most common type of termite found on inspections in the bay area. Subterranean Termites are a social insect that live in the soil beneath tree stumps, fallen branches, and man made structures composed of lumber. In order to infest homes subterranean termites will build "mud" shelter tubes from the soil to any available wood members and will even crawl through cracks in foundation walls, they are mostly found in substructure areas of homes. Workers are cream / brown in color and roughly 1/8" to 3/8'' long. Swarmers are darker in color, slightly larger, and can be identified by their 4 wings identical in length. These termites will commonly swarm on the first sunny day after a rain storm.
Unlike subterranean termites, Drywood termites are able to live in very dry wood without maintaining constant contact with the soil or any moisture source. Because Drywood termites will usually infest deep into the wood members, identifying an active infestation can be difficult. The most common evidence found is in the form of fecal "pellets" kicked out of galleries by working termites, these pellets have a distinct ridged shape and are about 1/25'' in length, because they are the color of the wood being eaten they will often resemble small yellow and brown piles of sand. Drywood termites are generally larger than subterranean (soldier drywood termites are 5/16" long) and will swarm at dusk or nighttime and tend to fly towards areas of greatest light intensity. swarming usually happens in california around the fall seasons.
Dampwood termites are the largest termite found in the bay area. Dampwoods must live in very damp, usually fungus damaged wood to survive but unlike subterranean termites, they do not need to keep in contact with the soil. While more commonly found in tree stumps and fallen branches, Dampwood termites can infest structural lumber in houses if enough moisture is present. Workers measure up to 3/4" in length and are usually cream colored, Soldiers are the same size but can be red/brown to yellow. Dampwood termites will swarm periodically throughout the year
(True) Powder Post Beetles
Powder Post Beetles are a collection of 70 different species of wood boring beetles belonging to the family "lyctinae". sizes can vary amongst species but most range from 1/32" to 1/4" in length. Powder post beetles infest wood by laying their eggs in cracks and crevices of unpainted lumber, the larvae will then feed on starches within the wood reducing it to a powdery dust. Damage is easily identified and will often appear as numerous "tack" holes to lumber varying in size. These holes will be filled with a very fine, flour like frass. Adult Lyctid beetles can be identified by their club like antennae and narrow, flat body. In the right conditions powder post beetles will continually re-infest wood until it is no longer structurally sound.
(False) Powder Post Beetles
"False" Powder Post Beetles Belong to the family "Bostrichidae". Unlike true powder posts, false powder post beetles will bore into the wood to lay their eggs. The larvae will then feed on starches until pupation. False powder posts are not known for re-infesting the same wood member after fully maturing. Damage can be identified as galleries cutting across the grain of the wood packed tightly with powdery "frass". Adults can measure anywhere from 1/16" to 1" with some western species measuring up to 2" in length. They are usually dark in color with heads not visible from above.