Termites Attraction to Wood

Termites Attraction to Wood

Protecting one’s home from termites should be a major priority for any homeowner. The investment made toward a property and the structure itself can be severely damaged by these destructive insects. Termites generally prefer to feed on dead plant material, however, if termites enter a house or building, they will eat any wood, carpet, cloth or paper that they find.

What Are Termites?

Termites are small organisms that live underneath the ground. These subterranean organisms construct small structures that retain enough moisture for their survival. When termites are in soil, they are often harmless and will not affect your home. However, when they enter your home the problems begin.

Termites are generally lighter in color than a typical house ant. They do share many similarities, though. Both flying ants and termites have wings, but termite’s wings are shaped like their bodies while ant?s wings are larger and are shaped differently. Both ants and termites have distinct midsections, though termite’s bodies are broader in size. As for their antennae, ant’s antennae are shaped in a bent position, almost like an elbow shape, while the termite’s antennae will be curved or straight.

Termites are not typically seen when they are infesting your home, but you might see swarms of them outside your home after it rains. This is an indication of a large infestation. If you notice this kind of swarm, call a pest control provider immediately. If not, look on your windowsills and other ledges outside your home for wings that have been shed when the termites entered your home.

Why Do Termites Like to Eat Wood?

There are a few things that help keep termites alive and in your home water, cellulose and shelter. Cellulose is what makes up dead wood. Termites eat cellulose in order to stay alive, absorbing its nutrients and moisture. When there is no cellulose, they look elsewhere for sources of nutrition. Termites can survive solely on water; however cellulose is the best source of nutrients for their diet.

Termites will eat any type of wood, as long as the wood is dead, and most houses have plenty of dead wood for termites to feast on. Stumps, mulch, and other wood debris are a perfect meal for a hungry termite. If termites get into the foundation of a home and into the wooden structure, they can cause severe damage.

What You Can Do About It

More times than not, termites will find sources of water to begin their search. Eliminating these water areas is the best way to defend your house from termites. Make sure that water is always drained away from your home, not toward it. If possible, also move any soil that has collected next to your home away from the foundation. Clean your gutters often to be sure that water is running away from the structure.

Also, the removal of any sources of dead wood around your home or near your home’s foundation can deter termites as well. Mulch should not cover the foundation line of your home, but should be underneath it, keeping the way in away from the termites that might be near your home. Also be sure that the wood areas of your home are not exposed through cracks and seams in the foundation. Check your foundation yearly to be sure that everything is structurally sound and that you are not inviting trouble.

Additionally, make sure you are on the lookout for signs of termites in your home the actual organisms, mud holes, and even damaged wood are all signs you might have a problem.

Even if you simply suspect that you have a problem with termites, you should call a pest control provider. They will assess the problem as well as the damage to see if you need extermination or something more.


Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Wood and Cellulose

Termites’ diets are primarily made up of cellulose, an organic fiber plentiful in wood and other plants such as grass. When digested, cellulose provides termites with the nutrients they need to survive.

What Do Termites Do to Wood: How Termites Eat Wood

Since wood is difficult to consume and digest, termites are at an advantage and rarely compete with many other insect species for food. Termites are equipped with special mouthparts for chewing wood and other sources of cellulose, plus microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoans and an organism similar to bacteria called Achaea. These microorganisms enable termites to break down cellulose into digestible substances, thus enabling the insects to obtain life-sustaining energy and other necessary nutrients.

Where Termites Find Wood

Not only do termites eat wood, but many species of the insect live in it, too. This makes finding food sources easier for the pests. Generally, termites live in trees, lumber, soil, and wooden structures. Therefore, homes are vulnerable to damage caused by termite feeding.

How the Termite Diet Affects Homeowners

In a number of cases, termite invasions in homes go unnoticed for long periods of time. Once colonies are established deep inside the structure, termites can stay permanently without being noticed by the homeowner. With the exception of certain termite species that require moisture or soil to survive, the pests only need wood. In summary, termite diets may lead to the destruction of buildings, typically resulting in the need for costly repairs.


Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Have You Ever Wondered.

  • Why do termites eat wood?
  • Can termites destroy a house?
  • How can houses be protected from termites?

Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Darren. Darren Wonders, “Why do termites eat wood?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Darren!

What do you think of when you hear the word “home”? For many, home conjures images of safety and security . Home is where the heart is, right? It’s the place where we can always go to be surrounded by those who love us.

Of course, our home is also usually a physical building, such as a house. Its space is subdivided into many different rooms with different functions . It serves to keep us warm and dry.

From time to time, though, our houses may be subject to threats. These threats often take the form of natural disasters , such as flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires.

However, our houses might also be threatened with destruction from within by an infestation of dangerous insects. Although it might seem impossible that tiny insects could ever threaten a large house, wood-eating termites can indeed damage a house to the point where it becomes structurally unstable .

Scientists estimate that termites have been around for about 50 million years, which means they existed at the same time as the dinosaurs. Today, there are nearly 3,000 species of termites that can be found all over the world.

Termites thrive in warm tropical areas, but they can be found just about anywhere the ground doesn’t freeze solid in the winter. Many people think these insects look like ants, but they’re actually more closely related to the cockroach.

To the misfortune of homeowners around the world, a termite’s diet primarily consists of cellulose, a tough fiber found in plants, such as shrubs and trees. Cellulose must be broken down by an enzyme called cellulase.

Termites don’t produce cellulase, but they have microorganisms, including bacteria and protozoa, living in their digestive systems that help them break down cellulose into digestible substances that give them the nutrients they need to live.

Many termites feed on trees and rotting logs in wooded areas. However, they can’t tell the difference between these types of wood and the wood that’s used to build your house. If they manage to find exposed wood inside your house, they will eat it.

It would take a single termite over 3,000 years to eat even a small home. Unfortunately, termites are social insects that live in groups …really, really large groups !

A single termite colony could consist of 15 million termites or more, and they eat around the clock, all day every day. Large termite colonies can eat as much as one pound of wood in a day.

Known as “silent destroyers,” termites can be hard to detect. Often, they’re detected only after significant damage has been done to a home. Experts estimate termites cause over $5 billion in damage to homes every year.

Wonder Contributors

We’d like to thank:

Amanda and Autumn
for contributing questions about today’s Wonder topic!


15 Surprising Things Termites Eat (And Don’t Eat)

Curious to know what termites like to eat?

Well you’re in for a treat because we break down everything you need to know about termites and their dietary habits!

From concrete to plywood, what WON’T a termite chomp on?

Termites and Their Eating Habits

Have you ever noticed that you only seem to see termites infesting wooden structures?

Why is that? Do they eat anything else?

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your termite problem?

Click here to check out our exterminator search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) exterminators in your local area.

(Process takes about 30 seconds)

Why Do Termites Like Wood?

Studies of the gut of a termite have been performed on a microscopic level to reveal something unexpected: these pests actually have bacterial protozoa living in their stomachs, digesting their food for them.

These protozoa break down cellulose, a biological compound found in wood, and create fuel from this unlikely resource. Because cellulose is found most abundantly in wood and tree roots, termites gravitate toward it.

Check out this video to learn more about WHY termites like wood!

Will Termites Eat Concrete?

Termites will NOT eat through concrete.

However, because termites will crawl through pre-made cracks in concrete structures and surfaces in search of wood, many people will fall to the misconception that the termites themselves have created the cracks.

Will Termites Eat Plastic?

While termites only feed on items with a cellulose compound, it’s not uncommon for termites to use their serrated jaws to chew through plastic barriers. When it comes to wood, termites will do whatever they can to gnaw through blockades.

The termites aren’t eating the plastic, however. This will not give them sustenance; they are using their jaws more as a weapon than as a vehicle for food.

What Wood Will A Termite Eat?

Okay, so termites are really only in search of cellulose, which is found primarily in wood.

But is all wood created equal to termites? Keep reading to find out.

Will Termites Eat Cedar?

These pests will stay away from cedar at first, however, this won’t always be the case. Over time, the wood will begin to break down and the resinous​​​​ decay will be attractive to termites.

Will Termites Eat Bamboo?

While bamboo is often eaten by pests, it’s not by termites.

The most common insect feeding off of this unique type of wood is the Bostrichid powerpost beetle, which feeds on different types of hard and soft wood.

Will Termites Eat Redwood?

Redwood is another type of wood that’s a natural deterrent for termites.

In the wild, redwood acts as treated wood does in warding off worker termites seeking food for the colony. However, as time wears on, the wood gets worn out. Its resin seeps into the ground, luring termites to feast.

Do Termites Eat Building Supplies?

If you’re in the process of building a home, shed, garage, or any other structure, you’re going to want to use the right materials upfront.

To prevent termite infestation, read below about how likely termites are to chow down on your different supplies.

Will Termites Eat Pressure Treated Lumber ?

The answer to this is a solid no.

Pressure treatment of lumber with chemicals is the number-one step taken against termites. The wood is packed with a preserving agent to stop decay as well as fill the wood with a chemical compound which acts as a blockade against termites. Normally, this is the wood that makes direct contact with the ground, so that when termites encounter the lumber, they’ll pass it right by.

Will Termites Eat Plywood?

This answer depends on whether the plywood has been pressure-treated or not.

Plywood is composed of several cuts of wood glued together, which contains cellulose. Normally, termites will find this cellulose in plywood, so they’ll eat it. However, with a pressure treatment, the termites will no longer be able to sniff out their favorite food.

Will Termites Eat OSB?

Oriented strand board (OSB) is made of wood, but it is cement-bonded for extra durability. For this reason, termites aren’t likely to eat it.

The presence of the cement works to deter termites from the cellulose in the wood chips which make up the board, but also prevents decay. These two factors significantly decrease the likelihood that termites will eat OSB.

Will Termites Eat Sheetrock?

The paper which lines the front of a sheetrock wall is comprised of cellulose, so it’s a nice appetizer for termites. While they don’t like to eat the actual sheetrock itself, they’ll begin to eat the outer layer and search inside for more cellulose.

Also, the walls behind the sheetrock layer in a home or a garage are primarily made of wood, so it’s not unlikely that a termite will keep journeying straight through the sheetrock to find even more cellulose.

Will Termites Eat Particle Board?

Because particle board is made up of several different types of wood (chips, sawdust, waste materials), termites LOVE to eat particle board.

Another major attractant of termites to particle board is its ability to swell with moisture. Because some termites love dampened wood, wet particle board is like serving termites their favorite food on a silver platter.

Termites and Their Diet Outside!

What do termites eat in the wild?

Do you have plants in your yard that could be harboring termite colonies without your knowledge?

Read on for more info.

Will Termites Eat Live Trees?

Normally, live trees and bushes are not optimal sources of food for termites, as these insects feed on dead and decaying cellulose.

However, Formosan Subterranean termites can take over some species of live trees, burrowing into the centers and making themselves at home inside.

Unless the tree starts to decay, you should be okay.

Will Termites Eat Cypress?

Cypress is another type of wood (along with cedar and redwood) which is naturally decay-resistant during its lifespan.

However, once the tree dies, it will eventually break down. Also, the presence of moisture within the tree’s trunk, branches, and roots can lead termites to a cypress tree.

Will Termites Eat Dry Wood?

The answer to this question, unfortunately, is yes.

There’s a species of termite which feeds exclusively on dry, smooth wood such as hardwood floors, banisters, baseboards, and even furniture. The tunnels made by the termites’ chewing are smooth and finished, as the drywood termites don’t have the same serrated, jagged jaw that the dampwood termites have.

Will Termites Eat Painted Wood?

Here’s some good news for all homeowners: termites won’t eat through paint!

However, whether or not a termite colony will make its way into your wood depends on how well the wood was painted. If the pieces of wood inside the ground are bare, then this is a surefire way for termites to make their way inside the wooden structure.

Do yourself a favor and leave no spot unpainted.

Will Termites Eat Poplar Wood?

Poplar wood is defined at utilitarian, working wood. It can be a blend of a few different types of wood, all with different levels of resistance to termites.

Each kind of wood has cellulose, which will always be what a colony of termites is after. However, some poplar wood may be stronger at protecting against termites if made from certain naturally-resistant trees like cypress, redwood, and cedar.

Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your termite problem?

Click here to check out our exterminator search tool where we instantly send you free quotes from trusted (and thoroughly vetted) exterminators in your local area.

(Process takes about 30 seconds)

Termite Diet Final Thoughts

If there’s one thing to remember about a termite’s dietary habits, it’s that these insects will always feast on cellulose and decaying wood.

Any item or particle made up of cellulose is prime cuisine for a termite. This includes nearly every type of wood, especially those which swell with moisture.

Steps can be taken, however, to protect wood against termite infestation such as pressure treatment, concrete reinforcement, and sealant coats.

By knowing the prime attractant for termites, you can better protect against an infestation in the future.

Other Termite Guides

Curious about other termite related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.


Why Do Termites Eat Wood?

Homeowners likely dread few pests more than termites. They may be tiny, but, together, they cause about $5 billion in damage to American homes each year. The thought that these invasive insects might be silently eating away at the investment you’ve made in your home can certainly be disturbing. But why do termites eat wood? Is their diet restricted to wood, or can foraging termites cause other kinds of damage in and around your home? Read on to find out.

Nutrition for Termites

Termites may eat wood, but what they’re really after is the cellulose from which wood is made. Cellulose is the main component found in the cell walls of wood, plants and grass. It’s also the most abundant organic compound on Earth. Paper and cardboard also contain cellulose.

Termites never stop eating, even once they have established themselves in your home. To feed their ever-growing colonies, they will devour anything that contains cellulose. Termites will attack lumber, books, magazines, sheetrock (or drywall), wallpaper and fabrics. In short, if you’re dealing with a termite infestation, more than the structure of your home is at risk. So too are your furniture and personal possessions.

How Do Termites Digest Wood?

Termite digestion is a complicated process. Termites cannot digest cellulose and extract life-sustaining nutrients from it on their own. They must rely on the help of one-celled protozoa and bacteria that live in their digestive tracts. These microorganisms break the cellulose down into simple sugars that keep their host termites alive.

What Wood Do Termites Prefer?

Different species of termites specialize in different types of wood.

Subterranean termites are the most common species of termite in the United States. These termites nest in moist, underground conditions and prefer soft pine (they don’t get into hardwood a lot). Therefore, subterranean termites often leave a distinct pattern of damage behind, one that follows the grain of the wood itself. They also construct mud tubes and use them to forage up from their colony and into your home.

Drywood termites normally infest dry wood, such as that found in your home’s framing, structural timbers, hardwood floors and even furniture. Unlike their subterranean cousins, drywood termites don’t have to stay in contact with the soil. Instead, they get the moisture they need from the wood they’ve invaded (and the atmosphere itself). Since drywood termites bore wood from the inside-out, the outer surface of the any infested material may still appear smooth and undamaged to the naked eye.

Dampwood termites prefer the wood found in decaying logs, stumps and wood piles. Since these termites generally infest wood that is already damaged, they aren’t really a problem for most homeowners. Dampwood termites are generally found in homes with high moisture issues where the wood is decaying.

If you discover termites eating wood in or around your home, get help from the termite control professionals at Terminix®. We’ve been leading the industry in termite treatment and control for over eight decades. Contact Terminix today to let us put our knowledge and training to work for you.

Even if you don’t currently have termite activity, it’s a good idea to contact a termite control professional. Since termites feast 24/7, Terminix has plans that can help protect you from the cost of future termite infestations.


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